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. Ruh Roh

    Hey!!! Those aren't graying sideburns Mitt is sporting in that picture!! Those are gills!! He really is a Merman!! And he is going to push his Merman agenda when he becomes President. Look for repeals of environmental protections to speed up global warming and a rise in sea levels, his kin are hoping to have some of the beach front property in Florida and California as soon as possible...

    July 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • bhaskie357

      LOL! Thanks for the laugh. As a fellow "Merman", I got a kick out of your post. Cheers!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  2. expatpatfan

    For the first time ever, Americans will finally have a chance to vote for a non-Christian presidential candidate in this election.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • D0999

      Mormonism is a christian church because they believe in Jesus Christ.

      July 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  3. Joe Seattle

    Notice they didn't show you the actuall survey question asked.

    Among that 30% of repubs who say Obama is a Muslim, most are quite aware of his claims to be Christian. They just don't believe him.

    I don't know if he's a Muslim or not, but based on his words and deeds, his self-alleged Christianity is purely for the benefit at the polls.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      yes, weak. It is here:

      July 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  4. rob

    The Mormon cult is a repulsive, immoral, disgusting, bigoted organization that spreads hate against others. And Mormon beliefs are laughable. And if they can spend tens of millions of dollars on hate campaigns, why can't they pay taxes? Why are taxpayers subsidizing government services to this pathetic, faux "religion?" The sooner this cult is brought down, the better off the country will be.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Joel


      You have no facts to back up what you stated do you? In fact you are the very bigot you claim the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is. I have personally never seen hate out of the this church in fact they help members and non members across the globe. Check your facts at least. The hates seems within you!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Uncle Lindy

      From your comments, who's the hater?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • expatpatfan


      Well one example would be funding Prop 8 in California. Any group that puts money towards discriminatory legislation isn't 100% golden in my book.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Brock

      It's interesting that Romney is referred to as a "Mormon" in this article, while Obama is referred to as a Chrisitian.
      What many people don't understand is "Mormons" are Christians. The word Mormon is simply an nickname. The church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. How people can think that Mormons are not Christians is beyond me. The church bears the name of Jesus Christ. They believe he is our Savior and Redeemer. They believe in the Bible.......people who think that Mormons are not Christians no nothing about their religion. In order to form an opinion, one should strive to understand their true beliefs. Attend their church meetings and see for yourself instead of listening to your pastors, preachers, or others speak negatively about the Mormon church. Failure to obtain the facts for yourself is simply ignorance.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  5. MrHighMighty

    We have seen Romney conduct his campaign in the same way Mormons created their religion. He distorts and makes up stuff about President Obama, just like the Mormons distort and make up stuff about God.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Mormon

      You are allowed to lie as a Mormon as long as it's for the benefit of your religion. Look it up.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Uncle Lindy

      And just like you make up stuff about Mormons...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  6. Akech Philip Dut

    Fellow Americans,Let priotize politics first given the fact that this political season is within the parameters of politics not Religion.Besides,the change we were told to belief in has drastically becomes Disbelief and so the election is not gonna treat well both the big two. Only one good one must be the peoples' leader!!

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

    Who the heck cares! I cannot wait for the day when a presidential candidate's religion receives as little attention as how many siblings they have, or what their favorite breakfast food is. For all the ignoramuses saying crap like "America is a Christian country" – please, please go back to 7th grade civics class, and this time try paying attention once in a while. One of our country's greatest strengths is our diversity. Religious diversity includes Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and yes, Atheists. If you don't get that, then you fail to understand some of the most basic principles of our nation.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  8. Sai

    Any religion but Muslim.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • timelord7202

      Who said Obama was a Muslim, and given some Christians have acted just as bad as some Muslims (by doing vile things and saying they do it in the name of their chosen religion)...

      I'll side with Obama. He's not perfect (like who is), but Mitt seems to obey the Almighty Dollar and/or Lord of the Flip-Flops a little too frequently...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • expatpatfan

      Muslim isn't a religion...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  9. anon-i-mouse

    It's amazing how uninformed people are. It's no wonder that there are so many low and middle-class Republicans in the country. They don't have a clue what the GOP really represents.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  10. MrsFizzy

    If only it didn't matter....!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  11. peter

    mormonism like liberalism is a mental illness

    July 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Hoos

      What would one call blatant denial of evidence? Global warming, evidence for evolution, the lack of any evidence for a higher being... would you call that blatant stupidity or social conservatism? I get the two confused sometimes.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • timelord7202

      I doubt you could define "liberalism"...

      July 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Suralin

      I realize asking for civility on a CNN message board is going to be an exercise in futility, but I may as well try. :p

      Calling those who have legitimate disagreements with you either brainwashed or mentally deficient is not going to produce a good debate, and it certainly won't make the country better. It just produces bumper sticker quotes, high blood pressure, and disdain for your fellow humans. (I'd say fellow Americans but I can't tell where posters are from here.)

      July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  12. Jarsbait

    I don't care about Romney's religion, though I have several neighbors very exercised that he was Bishop of Boston at the same time he was governor. I do care that he has spouted a stream of lies on the campaign trail and has only one value – win. He will say whatever he believes the audience in front of wants to hear.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Chet

      What about Obama's lies?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  13. Long Feet

    USA is a Christian country and we should all respect that. Read history peeps!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Really?

      Which ones should we respect? The ones who decided blacks are only three fifths human? Or the ones that actually owned slaves? Or the ones who denied women a vote for more than a hundred years, or the ones that banned interacial marriage or the ones forcing the native Americans to leave their homes and march to internment camps so that we could take their land since they also didn't count as people. Or how about the ones that brought us into the age of atomic bombs and were the only ones to have ever used them. Are these the Christians we should be so so proud of?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • erin

      Long feet, you are the one who needs to read your history – and I don't mean anything written by Glenn Beck.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Suralin

      Saying the US is a Christian country can have two meanings, and it's not clear which one (or both) you're alluding to. It's quite true that the overwhelming majority of American citizens are Christians of some stripe or another, and that's just fine. 🙂

      But I feel I should point out that, *legally*, the US is neutral on matters of religion. So despite the numbers, Christianity isn't the official religion of the United States; we don't have an official (i.e. government-sponsored) religion at all. And honestly, that's the way I like it.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • timelord7202

      We have.

      Thomas Jefferson advocated for separation of church and state, something Teax's school district wants to shroud (look it up online).

      Many of our acts have NOT been Christian – some "Christian" governors and congressmen have passed bills that have hurt the poor. WWJD??


      July 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

      What Would Jesus Do If He Actually Existed?

      July 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  14. NYC

    Mormons = Christians

    End of story.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • peter

      mormons are not christians–they believe that the book of mormon is the word of God–it is a filth religion of sickness–cursed is the christ of joeseph smith in hell he dwells

      July 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Here a Little, There a Little


      Mormons believe in the Christ of the New Testament. Look it up.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Fact Based Lies

      Mormons = Christians

      Christians = Morons

      Morons = Mormons

      Mormons = Christians

      End of story.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • expatpatfan

      Mormons = Christians in the same way that Jews = Christians. Which is to say, there are certain doctrinal similarities, but they are separate religions, even if they share some books.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  15. Rob

    America is a Christian nation; that's the most important thing.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Fact Based Lies

      America is a Walmart nation; that's the most important thing...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • timelord7202


      In action, it's done a lot of un-Christian things...Rick Scott (Governor, FL) claims to be Christian but passed bills that hurt the poor. But I'm sure anyone who does more than preach can use a search engine and find PLENTY of examples that show how "Christian" our country's representatives are not.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Actually, the most important thing is that we keep shopping. It must be true because as he was standing at the site of the Twin Towers, Georgie Bush II, did not ask us to make any sacrifice. He merely asked us to keep shopping. And, businessmen are telling us that they will not invest their money in this economy until we start shopping more, even if we must borrow on our credit cards. Shopping is more important than any other value under the Sun.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  16. bam

    so it is confirmed 30% of reps are 100% ignorant
    the rest are still trying to hide it.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Fact Based Lies

      The 70% of the republicans who accept Obama is a Christian are still 100% certain he was born in Kenya... I mean, they can see his skin color, you don't get that kind of black in Hawaii...

      July 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  17. Tr1Xen

    Most of the people who think Obama is Muslim are named Jethro or Billy Bob and are married to their sisters. That being said, there are still quite a few of us (myself included) who aren't backwoods rednecks and who still don't care for Obama. Any president who raises my taxes to increase the number of handouts available to those who don't lift a finger for themselves isn't getting my vote.

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

      u might not be jethro or billybob but u think like them...
      Obama didnt create welfare.. but u were ok with bush handing out help and sending troops to their deaths

      July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Unless you can provide some detail to support your view that President Obama is raising your taxes to support those who do not lift a finger, you are merely a lemming. You cannot think for yourself. Here, I will help you think this through:

      1. Have your federal taxes been raised since Mr. Obama became president?

      2. Which of the added taxes which President Obama has added to your burden have gone to these people who do not lift a finger?

      3. Who are the people who do not lift a finger? Is it the elderly, maybe? Those who are disabled? The corporate farmers who receive support?

      4. To whom should government provide financial assistance? Anyone? No one?

      5. How about social security? It is a federal program. Should it be abandoned?

      6. How about your own residential mortgage? should you be denied the tax deduction for your mortgage interest?

      7. Do you receive any federal benefits or assistance?

      8. How much do you work each week?

      I do expect honesty in your responses. If you are not honest, God will strike you dead.


      July 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Are we having fun, yet? No response is the same as dishonesty.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Shawn

      Hopefully you have saved and planned for retirement well, which would mean no social security for you...cause afterall, you wouldn't want to be taking welfare now would you? I let me grandmother know all the time, that the minimal amount they were pulling from her paychecks in the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's...in no way adds up to what she paid into the social security system which is now sending her $1100 a month. The working young of today are paying for the social security of todays retired seniors.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  18. blake

    Yep, devout Mormon and a nominal Christian. Neither know Christ. But Romney is a man of character. Obama is a liar and a fraud.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Tr1Xen


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

      Yep, devout Mormon and a nominal Christian. Neither know Christ. But Obama is a man of character.
      Mittens is a liar and a fraud.

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

      I would disagree. I think the Mormon Romney clearly knows Christ and lives a very Christ-centered life.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  19. Smokey

    It really is strange how Americans can go from trashing Obama because they didn't like the things said by his long-time pastor at his Christian church, forcing him to stop attending his church for political reasons and distance himself from his pastor, then less than four years later y'all are now convinced he's a Muslim? Make up your minds!

    July 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  20. Bilibot

    As long as they will not take away our civil right and fix the economic turmoil so people can go to work, it doesn't matter what religion they have, may the best man win.

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

      It kinda does matter.

      Just ask the relatives of the tens of thousands dead innocent civilian Iraqi's

      They're dead because Bush believed his god blessed his decision to invade Iraq.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • bam

      mittens must invade iran to appease norquist....
      yeah exactly he doesnt know which one is demanding him to do what

      July 26, 2012 at 6:27 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.