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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. bhaskie357

    The amount of misinformation posted in this forum thread is incredible. I am 5th generation Christian who is a member of the LDS or "Mormon" faith, and what many of you are telling me that I believe is a little (read 'A LOT') off the mark. I won't go into it all, as the details of your misinformation are irrelevant

    I respect each of your rights to believe whatever you want to believe. I won't disrespect or trivialize your right to do so, and won't trivialize your beliefs. They are YOURS, and just because we may not agree on what or who God is, or if he even exists, you have every right to your own beliefs and obviously have reasons for believing whatever you do.

    What really counts is the way that we treat each other, and it seems that today, there are more people that put stock in trying to ridicule others than those who respect each other. Sarcastic, biting comments aimed at making another person look like an idiot seem to be more prevelant than finding common ground.

    Our Country's diversity is part of what has made us great in the past. We need to embrace our diversity and stand united in morality and protecting basic human rights for each other and for standing against those who would limit freedom in today's world. If we can do that, then no matter who the POTUS is, we can be a light to the rest of the world.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'll defend your right to have beliefs to the death, but it's also my right to say that while all Christians are a little bit deranged, anybody who actually believes the whole Joey Smith thing is completely retarded.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • bhaskie357

      Well, Rational Libertarian, you certainly have the right to believe that. It does make you seem a little like a troll with an axe to grind when you state it that way, but hey, to each their own.

      By the way, we prefer the term "Mentally Handicapped" to "Retarded" please.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • peter

      you believe like all mormons that the book of mormonsmanother testament of jesus christ is the word of God-you sir or mam are no christian–you have a mentall illness of the cursed christ of josesph smith–get on your kness and beg to repent

      July 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • janey33

      Rational Libertarian...and it's okay for you to call those who belileve differently than you deranged and retarded?? It's fine to disagree with someone's beliefs, but that does not make someone retarded because they don't share yours.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little

      I wouldn't listen to forum dwellers too closely. Of course you are a Christian, anyone who knows anything about the Mormon Church agrees with you.

      Excluding Mormons from the definition of Christianity based on their rejection of the extra-biblical creeds created by Pagan emperors is absurd. There was not a single first or second century Christian who believed in the "trinity." Likewise, there was not a single one of the early Church fathers that failed to profess a devout believe in litteral deification. To exlcude Mormons from the greater body of CHristianity for the same beliefs clearly professed by every first and second century Christian known to man is nothing more than a marketing tactic of very large, wealthy and powerful organizations to influence the gulible.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • janey33

      bhaskie357...thank you for one of the more sane postings here.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • janey33

      peter...why do you hate Mormans so much??? They have a right to their belefs just as you have a right to yours. As long as they don't try to force them on the rest of us, I am fine with it. I used to know some Mormons, and they were very nice people who would certainly never force me to believe what they do. And they were definately not "retarded".

      July 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  2. ProperVillain

    I really don't care what religion anyone is, especially a politician. Religion is just another thing they use to gather votes. It's a sick joke. It's even sadder that people vote solely based on the perceived faith of a candidate. I could care less whether you are Christian, Jew, Mormon, Hindu, Muslim or Atheist (apologies to atheists. I'm not saying your beliefs are a religion..) What I care about is do they have a backbone and are they going to do right by the American people. Those two qualifications are sadly lacking in all of our candidates, despite what faith they claim to follow.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • janey33

      ProperVillain...Religion is important to me, but you hit the nail on the head with your statement "What I care about is do they have a backbone and are they going to do right by the American people. Those two qualifications are sadly lacking in all of our candidates, despite what faith they claim to follow." And you have just described what is wrong with both parties...the Democrats don't do right by the American people, and the Republicans have no backbone. I find both parties equally bad. I am Independent and will vote based on the policies of those running, and what those I vote for will do for this country.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Patriot

    Frankly Scarlet I don't give a damn.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  4. Rational Libertarian

    Obama: Muslim
    Romney: Not a Christian

    The views of the average retarded person (basically everyone).

    July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • janey33

      Okay, explain your pious hyprocricy reasoning. NDOP is for all denominations to get together to pray for this country. Nothing pious or hypocritical about that.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • janey33

      THere you go again, calling people you disagree with retarded. They aren't. They just have different beliefs than you. I don't think you know what the word retarded means???

      July 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  5. janey33

    I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV....
    The National Day of prayer is pious hypocricy??? Far from it.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Pious hypocrisy, I'd agree with that.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  6. Smart Potato

    The main difference here: One will make decisions for the better of the people regardless of faith; the other will make them based on it. And that is one scary sect.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little

      The world must indeed be a scary place to the uninformed and uneducated mind.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  7. peter

    meanwhile-actually the jews for jesus ain't fooling anyone except the suckers who believe in israel–just a side note

    July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Up yours, jerk.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • peter

      nissan–i know

      July 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      nissan?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • janey33

      Oh? There are lots of Jews who sincerely believe in Jesus. They don't have to fool anyone.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  8. Zaboom

    Fun discussion y'all. I'm out to a meeting.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  9. coreyjohnson93

    This country will never elect a man of the Jewish faith, will it? 😛

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      The legacy of the Jews is not to ascend to great political power but rather to be behind the scenes and to have great influence. The story of Joseph son of Jacob in the Hebrew Testament illustrates this point.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  10. peter

    i urinate on the book of mormon–cursed is joespeh smith and his cursed christ

    July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • want2believe

      Don't complain when someone of another faith urinates on your bible then.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      want2believe, the religious people did urinate on his bible. His bible is science and reason and the creationists and Intelligent Design advocates have been cursing it and urinating on it it for centuries.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • foffe1

      You sound like an angry out of control psycho, a walking time bomb. Let us all hope that you don't have access to firearms.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  11. peter

    mitt romney needs to get on his knees and reject the false religion of his pathitic fathers and than we repulicans might–might vote for the moderate

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

      Only his religion is false,yours is not ?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Student

      Before you criticize others, learn to spell

      July 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • janey33

      "we republican"??? I know lots of republicans who will vote for Romney. So don't try to speak for all Republicans.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  12. Meanwhile, back to the article...

    There is a magnitude of difference between a professing Christian who used to attend a church with a controversial pastor, and someone who once held the office of bishop in an offshoot religion with significant theological problems compared to orthodox Christianity. As a church member, Obama holds no spiritual authority and bears no responsibility for his [former] pastor's statements. On the other hand Mitt Romney DID hold a position of authority in the LDS church and as such is responsible to answer for its teachings, at least when it comes to a comparison of the two men's faiths.

    Evangelicals almost universally reject Mormonism as pseudo-Christian. Yet they are willing to set their theological differences aside in order to vote against someone whose personal statement and practice of faith is almost identical to theirs. As long as they are willing to say "I don't care if they're Christian as long as they agree with me," then fine; at least they're not being hypocritical. But the majority of them will vote for Romney and still claim it's the "Christian" thing to do.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • peter

      you say evangelicals-does not christendom reject mormonism ,jewism ,muslim–i think i was raised a good catholic boy

      July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Meanwhile, back to the article...

      Christians are divided on Judaism. Most will reject Islam with varying degrees of toleration. Orthodox Christendom by and large rejects Mormonism as some degree of heresy, although evangelicals will often go so far as to call it a cult.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • peter

      meanwhile–im like a christian like braveheart–that mormon will eat shtt and die before i voe for him

      July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • janey33

      Obama had the option to LEAVE that horrible pastor, but he did not. He kept going to his church for tweny years. So that shows that he agrees with him. A Christian would not preach like that preacher did. This preacher has nothnig but hatred for white people. Obama could have informed him that Jesus loves all races, but went along with his hateful sermons.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • KRHODES

      Well...lets see...I can vote for one who says he is a Christain, but does not act like one (Obama) and seems to be fairly hostile to Christianity, Or..i can vote for someone who thinks he is a Christian and behaves as one(Romney). I think i will vote for Romney.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • janey33

      KRHODES...good thinking.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  13. Nissim Levy

    Another falsehood of the Mormon religion is that American Indians (the casino type not the seven eleven type) ae descended from the Jews. Modern DNA tests have dosproven that.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Student

      According to the Founding Effect, the very few individuals that came from Israel to the Americas in the Book of Mormon would have had their DNA diluted by the individuals already living in the Americas and those that have migrated to the Americas since that time. It is no suprise that DNA can link the American Indians to the peoples of the Book of Mormon.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Student, you are wrong about that. i read a full article about this and the DNA testing methodology was not impacted by a dilution factor. There is absolute proof that native americans did not descend from the Jews.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Student

      *can't link.

      Also in response to your earlier claims about the Book of Abraham, the belief is that Joseph Smith was given papyrus from a Mummy that was being taken around in fairs here in the states. While what you said is right about the translation of the papyrus to English not being the same as what was found in the Book of Mormon, our thought is that Joseph Smith didn't translate it directly, but was inspired by God with revelation when he saw the papyrus – and that lead to the Book of Abraham.

      Ultimately, all religions will have those that strive to pull them down. I think that is unfortunate – why can't we all work together to combat the evils of this world and try to help each other live honorable lives?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Student

      I graduated with a degree in biology and could introduce you to many PhDs who write the articles you are talking about, and they would all agree with my statement. I don't mean to argue, mostly point out that DNA evidence will not prove or disprove the Book of Mormon. Much like we can't prove the events in the Bible all took place, but I know that they occurred.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    The good news is that the self-delusional types who think Obama is a Muslim are now comfortable with having a Muslim president.

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

      If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's probably a duck. Yes he is a Muslim, though he's obviously trying to hide that from us too. And I will never be comfortable with it.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • janey33

      Comfortable with having a Muslim president?? Don't think so. Muslims have only one goal...world domination. You either convert to Islam or die. That is what the Quarn teaches. I don't mind a bit if someone in the white house has a different religion, but this goes way beyond beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  15. ObamaJoe

    Oops,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Founding fathers of America attacked success,,,,,,,,,,British King,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    It seems attacking success is an American tradition 🙂

    Poor Mitt~~~~~~~~~

    Mitt Romney / Michael Bachmann 2012 ~~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Mitt is very UN-America 🙁

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

      He does not understand the difference between success and greed.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  16. One one

    All we know is what they say they believe. We don't know what they really believe.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Check their hearts,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  17. peter

    liberalism like mormonism is a mental illness-i won't be voting this year

    July 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • foffe1

      Were you molested as a young boy in your church? It would go a long way to explain all the venom that you are spewing against other religions.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • janey33

      I hope that you will do some more research on Mormonism and actually talk to some Mormans before you make up your mind.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  18. 0rangeW3dge

    Leaders are chosen by only a few of their traits, their Tallness and their Bluster,,, and American Presidents have to have a cute smile, as well.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  19. JP

    Obviously Obama is a Muslim who won't acknowledge it. But his history follows him.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      "Obviously" ~ ~ ~ to the 51% that believe that

      July 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @OrangeW3dge,

      actually it's only 17%, but 30% of Republicans and 34% of 'conservative' Republicans.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • janey33

      Yes, Obama shows by his actions and words that he is a Muslim, or at least a Muslim sympathiser.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. Nissim Levy

    Mormonism has been disproven. Excerpts from the Book of Abraham have been discovered and they have been translated from hieroglyphics into english. Mormonism claims that the Book of abraham is a book written in ancient egypt about Abraham from the old testament. When the excerpts were translated they were not at all about Abraham.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • disgustedvet

      What prat tell were they about ?

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

      What pray tell were they about ?

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

      So have all the other religions

      July 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      They were about funerals held in the first century BC in Egypt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Abraham

      July 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • janey33

      You're using wikipedia for a source?? Please come up with a legitemate one.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      janey33, are you frickin' serious? That's your reason for denying what I said. I just picked wikipedia as a link to explain in more detail what I was referring to. There are many scholarly sources that corroborate what I said.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • janey33

      Nissim Levy...I am sorry to upset you, but anyone at all can contribute anything to wikipedia. It is not a credible source. It would have been better if you had picked one of those more scholarly sources.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:41 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.