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Pew: Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate
The Pew report said that views of the candidates’ religious identifies were unlikely to shape the election in a major way.
July 26th, 2012
12:11 PM ET

Pew: Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Americans have limited knowledge of the presidential candidates’ religious faith, but their concerns about the candidates’ respective religious beliefs are unlikely to play a major role in the 2012 race, according to a Pew survey released Thursday.

Most Americans, 60%, know that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon; he would be the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints elected to the White House. Among those who are aware of Romney’s religion, 81% say that they are comfortable with it or that it doesn’t matter to them.

At the same time, 32% of Americans don’t know that Romney is Mormon, and another 9% identify him as the member of  another tradition, the Pew survey found. Earlier surveys have suggested that those who don’t know that Romney is a Mormon are less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.

The Pew survey showed that only 49% of Americans identify President Barack Obama as Christian, though that number has grown from 38% two years ago.

Obama has repeatedly talked about his Christian faith, and his relationship with his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was a major political liability during his 2008 presidential campaign.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The Pew survey found that 17% of registered voters think Obama is a Muslim, while 31% say they do not know the president’s religion.

Thirty percent of Republicans say Obama is Muslim, Pew found, about twice as many who said that during the 2008 campaign.

The national survey was conducted from June 28 to July 9 among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

Despite misunderstandings about the faith of the candidates, the Pew report said that views of the presidential contenders’ religious identifies were unlikely to shape the election in a major way.

“Along religious lines, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants, on the one hand, and atheists and agnostics on the other, are the most likely to say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s faith,” the Pew report said. “Yet unease with Romney’s religion has little impact on voting preferences.”

“Republicans and white evangelicals overwhelmingly back Romney irrespective of their views of his faith,” the report said, “and Democrats and seculars overwhelmingly oppose him regardless of their impression.”

At the same time, the comfort level with Romney’s religion appears to have an impact on enthusiasm for the former Massachusetts governor.

“Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters who say they are comfortable with Romney being Mormon, 44% back him strongly,” the Pew report said. “Among those who are uncomfortable with it, just 21% say they back him strongly.”

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When it comes to Obama’s religion, just 45% of voters say they are comfortable with it. But among the half of Americans who correctly identify Obama as a Christian, comfort level with his beliefs is much higher: 82%.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mormonism • Politics • Polls

soundoff (886 Responses)
  1. Max - Park City, UT

    Sorry, didn't realize it was necessary to have a faith.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  2. disgustedvet

    Cannot believe m o r o n i c Americans do not know the candidates religion. Romney is a Mormon and obama is a member of the United Angelical Racists of America. Geesh.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  3. HB

    Janey33... clearly Obama is cleaning up the mess that Bush put us in when he was in office. He is doing his best but with republicans stopping him at evey chance they get couldn't do much. its 2012 people need to stop being racist let the men do his job .

    July 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • disgustedvet

      Baa-Baa-Baa. There's a Bushyman under my bed.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Zaboom

      Hahaha you have a short term memory my friend. And you lost all credibility when you said people need to stop being "racist". Please. Obama is a clown that won because of star-status popularity. Why has he lost so much support in four years? Because the man has plowed us into unimaginable debt, created an extremely divisive political environment (even in his own party), etc. etc. etc. Bring some meat to the big boy discussion.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      Fantasy 101 – Close your eyes and tap your heals together three times, spin around and repeat these words,"There's No Place Like Home..."

      July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Zaboom,

      Obama plowed us into debt? Really? Here was me thinking that Dubbya and his central Asian wars and zero banking oversight did that!

      Obama created a divisive political environment? Really? Here was me thinking that was the GOP (and particularly Karl Rove's strategy to engage the fundies), ever since Clinton couldn't keep his pants zipped up.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Zaboom

      @ non-GOPer – Ah this is where the discussion gets fun. Politics is inherently divisive, so that discussion could go back and forth all day. The debt is more cut-and-dry. Look at the numbers. Look at where money has been appropriated under Obama and how not only debt has skyrocketed, but so has waste. The meat would be fun to dive into in a sit-down conversation.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Zaboom,

      clearly we're not likely to agree. But the debt crisis started long before Obama took office. (It did not however exist under Clinton.) You could well argue that by not eliminating the Bush tax cuts he allowed things to get worse.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Zaboom

      I agree with you on the Clinton-Bush point. You're right, this is a long discussion.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  4. KRHODES

    "But among the half of Americans who correctly identify Obama as a Christian" Correctly identify Obama as a Christian..they be wrong. If he is a Christian...he does not read the same Bible i do? He neither knows or cares about anything Christian as demonstrated by his words and actions.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • babs

      You mean like takeing care of the poor and sick?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • JWT

      Obama must support and include all religions and none at all. He's doing fine that way.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • janey33

      You are correct..Christians are known by what they say and do. Just because someone says they are a Christian, does not mean they are. A Christian is a follower of Jesus.
      Babs...what do you mean taking care of the poor and sick?? The way Obama does that is to get them completely dependent on the government. There's no compassion in that.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  5. 0rangeW3dge

    Why would a country of people that are so far "out of touch" with reality even care if their leaders were "out of touch" also ???
    Completely Amazing, America. You guys don't even know the truth...which, certainly, explains why you are slinging "lies" back and forth, like you do on these blogs.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  6. Coug9

    If "religion doesn't matter", then would you vote for a Satanist for President?..............didn't think so. Religion does matter.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  7. W.G.

    Romney is not a Christian , personally I could never vote for a non-Christian .

    July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      So we can count on your vote for Obama then?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Zaboom

      Yep he is a Christian. You don't know the definition of Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • janey33

      Mormons worship the same god as Christians do. The only god Obama worships is himself.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  8. majav

    Finally Americans are smart enough and care not what someone's faith or faithlessness is.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      What makes you say that?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  9. Tina

    This article is misleading, or perhaps the Pew report was misleading. President Obama's faith is identified only as "Christian", and no where does it specify the sect of Christianity that he follows. Romney is also a Christian, but the article identifies him as a "Mormon," as though it is a religion separate and apart from Christianity. Mormons are Christians just as Catholics are Christians.
    Faith should not be an issue in this campaign – both candidates are Christian.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Not really. Mormons have Christian beliefs in that they accept the New Testament as the truth but they also add their own mythology on top of that. Catholics do not add their own mythology on top of the mythology of the New Testament.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • janey33

      Obama is a Christian????? You sure could have fooled me. He threw out the National Day of Prayer and invited a bunch of Muslims to the White House to celebrate Ramadan. Sure seems like he is a Muslim to me. A Christian would not do that.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Zaboom

      You don't know the definition of Christianity. You just supported her argument. They believe in the same Christ, in the same gospel. The vast majority of Mormons' beliefs are parallel to most other Christian churches.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @janey33,

      He held a Passover Seder at the White House too. So now he's Jewish.

      Surely a follower of Jesus would be welcoming to all people. Dispensing with pious hypocrisy like a National Day of Prayer is not non-Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Zaboom, I would say that a Christian is one who accepts the christian mythology invented during the first few centuries after the death of Jesus. Anyone who supplements this mythology with additional mythologies that have nothing to do with the New testament is not wholly Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Zaboom

      @ Nissem – Granted there are various definitions of Christianity. But according to yours, Mormons are Christians. I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon THEN read the New Testament. You will find that the doctrine is parallel. No one who has done that could ever reasonably say that Mormon "mythology" has "nothing to do" with the NT.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • lucentsky

      "Catholics do not add their own mythology on top of the mythology of the New Testament"

      You don't know anything about Catholicism if you really believe this.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      lucentsky, I am definitely no fan of the Catholic church but you do realize that the Catholic is the first church, the church of Peter, right? The Catholics place a stronger emphasis on Mary than the Protestants but don't forget that the Protestant sect was creasted much later.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  10. DaleW in MA

    Their religious views do not matter until they force them on the rest of the country (George Bush take notice). If Romney gives the Mormon faith, or others, big tax breaks like he does his job destroying business friends, then he should be impeached if he gets that far. If I was religious, I'd be praying that he doesn't, otherwise I vote progressive and contribute to campaigns accordingly.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • googleman

      Chuches don't pay taxes. You can't give tax breaks to organizations not paying taxes.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  11. lavern

    I'm not religious and don't care if the president, or future president is. But, I do have a problem with anyone that has extreme religious views.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  12. bb

    Mormons are someone you can trust unlike people who pray to a pagen (take aguess who)

    July 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Antigonus

      What's a "pagen" ?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  13. bb

    Oblunder god fearing i dont think so

    July 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Thumper

    I like Mormons. They are generally honest, courteous, kind people that believe in their convictions...
    Some are conservative (Mitt) and some are liberal (Harry Reed). I think we can leave this out of the presidential eqaution.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Dave

      No, I really don't think so. Someone who could be deluded into believing an obviously made-up story has no place leading this nation. I wouldn't vote for Harry Reid, either.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Zaboom

      @Dave – Obviously made up huh... Prove to me that all of Christianity is not "obviously" made up. Religion in general is based on faith, and while there is scientific evidence that lends credibility to content in both the Bible AND Book of Mormon, that's not why you become Christian (Mormon or otherwise).

      July 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Dave

      I can't prove that religions are not made up, because they all are. However, if religions were personified as mental patients, Mormonism would be the craziest patient in the psych ward.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The discussion of religion should be irrelevant in the choice of any elected official.

      Whatever religion (or not) a candidate professes is no indication of their personal morality or, more importantly, the policies they will try to enact.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Scientolgy would be the craziest and Mormonism in second place.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Dave

      Nissim Levy, you have a point there.

      A person's choice of religion does indeed speak volumes about character and integrity. I concur that religion SHOULD have no place in an election choice, but as long as people (mostly GOP) keep espousing their values and how they will force them upon us, I think it is unreasonable to NOT consider a person's religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Zaboom

      @Dave – Ahhhh you out yourself as an athiest. Any candidates religion should therefore not weigh heavily on your decision if they all believe in some form of made up mysticism. I'd also love to know how educated you are on Mormonism (and not educated by the media, which you have to know is rarely 100% accurate and factual).

      July 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Dave

      I dated a couple of Mormon girls and was married in a Mormon meeting house (not a temple), so I know quite a bit about them.

      Religion does indeed weigh in my decisions. While I made the decision after much introspection that I do not believe in a god or gods, I can certainly accept that some reasonable people may come to a different conclusion after weighing the evidence and rhetoric. What I cannot accept is that a reasonable person capable of logical thought would be a Mormon.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • janey33

      Dave, religions are not made up. They are accepted on FAITH. If you have faith that something or someone exists, that is what religion is. If you don't believe in God, that's your business, but those who do have no less credibility than you do. We all have our own beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @janey33,

      irrespective of faith, the statement that all religions are made up, remains true. Just because you belive in something (and it is your perogative to do so) doesn't make it real for anyone else.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Zaboom

      @ Dave – Exposure to Mormons doesn't necessarily mean education of Mormons. But I'll leave that argument. So atheist AND anti-Mormon. Okay, now I see the context of your comments and the extra distaste of Mormonism. This is where faith comes in. When you have none, you don't understand. Religion is not logical, and there are logical geniuses who are Mormon, so it's okay that you don't understand. But there is a host of religious people who are capable of logical thought but who have something more that's illogical: faith.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      janey33, I completely disagree with you. Those who do not believe in religion based on logical thought and a quest for evidence have more credibility than those who accept religious claims purely on failth and without a shred of evidence. Your way of thinking is exactly the way of thinking prevalent during the Dark Ages, prior to the Age of Reason.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  15. god's savior

    Mormons believe that they intend to be gods themselves some day, and are helping to earn their exaltation to godhood by talking to you. If recruited you are a notch on the belt. When they go to heaven they will have many many many spiritual Wives (plural marriages). The wives will remain eternally pregnant in heaven, endlessly having the mans spirit babies. Once the man has enough spirit babies from his many orgiies with his many spirit wives they will all eventually inhabit another planet where the spirit babies will be born and the man will be the LOCAL god over that planet. We are currently worshiping our LOCAL god (yes our god/jesus were once real men like mitt romney). The true god over all the local gods lives on planet Kolob. GOOGLE IT!!! Mormons are crazy.... also google joeseph smith lol, the founder of mormons who was a convicted felon

    July 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • janey33

      Do you have any idea what you are talking about?? I have known Mormans and they were nothing llke that. They sure didn't try to recruit me.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Dave

      You hit the nail on the head...except for the felon part. Who cares what label was placed upon him? The fact that they were felonies for fraudulent activities is far more pertinent than just the mere fact that he was a felon.

      There are lots of felons, myself included, who contribute to society in positive ways after serving their sentences.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  16. Nietodarwin

    SPRAY THE MORMONS WITH THE HOSE when you see them approaching your door, and definitely don't put one in the White House.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • janey33

      I'd much rather have a Morman in the White House than what we have now!!!!!! Obama has done so much damage to this country that I am wiling to give just about anyone a chance.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What damage has Obama done, janey?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • KRHODES

      Your right Janey...we have an anti christian atheist in there now..so someone who believes in God would be better than Obama.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Believing in God does not make one a better President. Intelligence, compassion and people skills is what makes a person a good President.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  17. ddtIA

    THOSE WHO KEEP ASKING THE QUESTIONS ARE THE ONES' ARE DOUBTING THEIR FAITH MORE ESPECIAL WOLF THE MAN HATES THE PRESIDENT WITH ALL THE STUPID QUESTIONS HE WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT OBAMA

    July 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  18. Vidyashanti

    Why the hack we are worried about the faith ? People of faith have committed great crimes and many are totally dumb.
    If a person can do the job honestly and with sincerity that is all counts. As long you have faith in yourself and are trying to work for the good of the people, you are okay. Both guys are good till they prove otherwise.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  19. There. Are. No. Gods!

    It does not matter which fable these guys follow, they are all a lie. There is no true religion because religion is a lie. Religions are a lie because there are no gods! If you doubt what I say then prove it. You can not. There. Are. No. Gods! jesus is a lie and you know it! There. Are. No. Gods!

    July 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • KWBaraka

      You mad, Bruh?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • janey33

      Yes, there is a God. And, no, we do not know that Jesus is a lie. Who are you trying to convince, yourself???? Those of us who know the truth will not be persueded otherwise. And you cannot prove that there is no God.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you can't prove there is one, so stop claiming that you can, janey.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • janey33

      Tom, I never said that I can prove it. Belief in God is FAITH. You can no more prove there isn't a God anymore than I can prove there is one. We all have our own beliefs. Just because you don't believe in God does not make you better than anyone else.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Wow janey33, it's very impressive how you just know the truth. Who needs science, math laboratories etc.. We should just know the truth. I think they wasted billions on the cyclotron in Geneva in trying to prove the Higgs particle. They could have just proclaimed the Higgs particle to exist on faith and be done with it.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  20. Scott

    Its official, republicans are crazy.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • KWBaraka

      You're just now realizing that THAT'S official?

      From what I recall, it's been official for years that republicans were crazy.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • lavern

      Yup

      July 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Zaboom

      Liberals are more

      July 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • kirby

      Crazy as "batty bugs"....! LOL LOL LOL

      July 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.