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.

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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. SconnieGuz

    Probably because nobody cares about what brand of delusions our commander in chief has when it comes to his invisible friend.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Obama only pretends to be a christian to appease the idiots, which are the majority. Fearful sheep need to know their shepherd believes what they do. Religion will be the destuction of humankind. Trust me... I'm the devil.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Expat American

    Do you know how to be first in line for the best sale items at a Red State Walmart?
    Put a Koran near the snack bar.
    That will clear out the 17% of toothless inbreds in a hurry.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  3. Paul

    Sure I do. Mitt Romney is a heathen Mormon who will burn in hell and President Obama is a Christian.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      no true scotsman fallacy...Romney shares the same imaginary friend that you have

      July 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  4. WhereIsPalin

    "17% of registered voters think Obama is a Muslim"

    You can draw another conclusion from this poll. 17% of the respondents listen to Fox News.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Exactly

      The corollary to this – 17% of those surveyed cannot read.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  5. zacharye

    Just goes to show you how uninformed and misinformed republicans are.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  6. SuzieQ1123

    How come not one liberal elite Hollywood type questions Obama's Christianity??? Oblablah claims he's a Christian and uses Scripture in some of his speeches...yet the usual liberals aren't upset at ALL about his so-called beliefs. They run down all other Christians but not this alleged one. Why? Because they know he really doesn't stand for what Christians stand for. He's safe with his wishy-washy beliefs. Why isn't anyone on the left upset with him talking about God and quoting Scripture when he's comforting people in Colorado? Where's the separation of church and state they cry about??? When Oblablah does it, it's OK but when someone else says he prays and quotes Scripture-suddenly he's a religious zealot.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • asdf

      Maybe its because, unlike others, Obama has tried his best to square his religion with undeniable reality, facts, objective morality, and human rights.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Newsflash – not all liberals are atheists.

      Really, you might benefit from watching something other than Fox News.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • skpfrmdc

      Seperation of church and state. People like you don't belong in this here country. Sieg!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • SuzieQ1123

      Um, I watch CNN. And read this blog. Jump to conclusions much?

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      As far as I have seen, President Obama makes it clear when he speaks of scripture or his beliefs that they are HIS beliefs, and he does not seek to legislate what he believes without regard to the many American citizens who believe differently.

      Therein lies the difference.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • babs

      President Obama is Christian. He is a member of the same denomination I am. I was lucky to hear him speak at a church event in Hartford a few years ago.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Dave23232323

      Because Obama's positions on public policy are not driven by his religion. It's simple to contrast that with what somebody like Santorum or Sam Brownback does, which is infuse public policy with religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Just once, I'd like to see an rational and open athiest in office. More importantly, I'd like to see Americans get over their fear of the concept of athiesm and actually acknowledge that a man (or woman) is perfectly capable of being morally sound without having to rely on a 2,000 + year old book for guidance.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • im with dirp

      Because not once has Obama used his religion to create laws on the people, unlike your idols. Level minded people unlike yourself dont care what people believe as long as it doesnt affect other people.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Seriously?

      @Suzie – What upsets me is when people calling themselves Christians are passing judgement on another Christians beliefs. You don't see any hypocrisy in that?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • JumpHigh

      Not judging...just being a fruit inspector: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

      July 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  7. J Ryan

    All religions are equally false because the promote faith over reason. Most believers are no different than any atheist because the enviably take the same position against any religion that's not their own. Those that believe in religion belong to the infancy of our species.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  8. bob

    why would this matter whatsoever? Pointless article.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Bjohns23

      It should not matter but this article just shows how ignorant people really are. The only time I would even care about this is if they let it direct their policies.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  9. Entil'za

    It is such a shame. I bet all the citizens of Iran know what religion there leader is. I even bet all the citizens of the Vatican State know what there leader's religion is. We Americans should be ashamed.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Lester

      I agree that ignorance is a shame but i hope you are not suggesting we should be more like those two theocracies you mentioned, where only one religion is tolerated.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. asdf

    When will Obama reveal his Hogwarts records??? WE ALL KNOW HE"S A PRACTICING WARLOCK!

    July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      He's a wizard not a warlock! 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Johnson

    Yes...Obama is a Christian Baptist and Romney a Mormon. They are quite distinct.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  12. Good Ol' Boy

    I know Obama is a Muslim and Romney is a good white God fearin' Christian because Rush told me so.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Independent from New Hampshire

      Well played!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. v_mag

    Well, most Baptists in Texas know that Rob-money is a Mormon, and it does put them off. However, most Baptists are more Repugnant than Christian, and they will vote for Mittler anyway. It's a bigot thing.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Adam

    I don't think Obama is a Muslim, but I absolutely don't think he's a Christian either.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Johnson

      He is a Christian. After the Rev Wright fiasco and the way many Black Pastors behave – the man cannot attend a Black Church. The Pastor will take advantage to get 15 minutes of fame. If he goes to a White Church he will be called an Oreo.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Seriously?

      I assume then that you are not a Christian, because you would know better than to pass judgement on another. On the off chance you are a Christian, take a look at Romans 14:1-4. Particularly Romans 14:4 – "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?"

      Seriously, I find it so contradictory to scripture when professed Christians question the Christianity of Barack. He has publicly confessed his beliefs. It is solely up to God to judge that.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  15. MennoKnight

    "white evangelicals overwhelmingly back Romney"

    I am a white evangelical and I hold my nose and vote Obama.

    My # 1 reason for this is I believe Romney would lead us into a war in Iran and start a new cold war with Russia / China thus tarnishing the image of America even worse than Bush.

    I will vote for a Liberal (Yuck) before I will vote for a NeoCon.

    Where did all the real conservatives go? Thank God we still have a few men like John McCain.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Independent from New Hampshire

      Except John McCain and the rest of the likes of him are now near their 80's. Times are changin' that's for sure.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      Independent from New Hampshire,

      I know and that is not a good thing.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  16. QS

    I'm not as interested in the percentage of people who DON'T know either candidates' religion as I am in the percentage of conservatives who genuinely believe President Obama is a Muslim.

    Speaks volumes really.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Ghandi

      It does, about you!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Independent from New Hampshire

      Never mind that fool "Ghandi" (bad name choice for their comments) QS.

      You are spot-on with your argument.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  17. just sayin

    You have a Christian and the other is in a Cult.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • mk

      I love it when one religion insists the other is a cult.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bjohns23

      Actually, both are cults. One was just created before people had any commin sense.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • BU2B

      They are both in cults.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Vesstair

      No, you have a member of a mainstream cult and a member of a slightly less mainstream cult. The only differences between a mainstream religion and a cult are time and acceptance.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • GEORGE!

      hahahahaha – Mormons are a cult. You know, not sure I've heard that before. How enlightening.

      You "Christians" need to try to follow Jesus and walk on water. Go for it! Just jump off a boat and walk on that water. No life jacket.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  18. Scott Clark

    If he's a Christian, tell me of one other Christian faith that teaches you can become a God!!! That is a complete abomination of Christian faith all by itself!! How arrogant could any man be as to think he is so self-rightous as to become a God!!! In Mitt's case, he acts like he already is one. I'm one Utahn that will most definitly not be voting for Mitt Robme!!

    July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Mike


      Hi Scott, The above is something Ive been sending to a lot of people and I even wonder if they bother to read it.
      I just watched the movie "September Dawn" where on 9-11 many Americans lost their lives to this cult and
      I spoke with my Son about this movie where they believe by killing gentiles ( anyone not a mormon) that they
      are saving us, and we can go to the planet kolob and be a god. My son felt that no mormons have killed anyone like this
      sense 1857, and must have given up the practice. When a mornon kills a gentile, the mormon believes he/she will get more glory and be closer to the supreme god or what ever they call him, and if mittens can nuke russia and china, and they both return the favor, how much more glory can any mormon in history ever have ??? Dan thinks Im nutso for thinking about this issue, as time has evolved mormons thinking as now they allow black people in where they never did before.

      Ive read where the mormon bible has now had over 1200 changes made to it to try to abide by new times.
      The Jesus and God we believe in is NOT the one mittens believes in.

      I wish more Americans knew like you did.

      Good luck to you !!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Adam

      Sorry Mike, but you are straight up coo coo for coco nuts. No one believes that. Try again.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Tomcodyfire

      Dude, Mike.... Speed-balls and commenting on articles is something you shouldn't do at the same time. What the fcuk are you talking about? Do us all a favor and lop off your nuts so you don't procreate anymore.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  19. just sayin

    "32% of Americans don’t know that Romney is Mormon"
    Where do the 32% live....in the deep South????

    July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Independent from New Hampshire

      Well believe you me they sure as do! Eating mayonnaise sandwiches and listening to John Cougar Melloncamp records.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Many in the deep south are very religious, thus very aware of Romney's religion. You fail. Try again.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • just sayin


      Many in the deep south are very religious, thus very aware of Romney's religion. You fail. Try again.

      I am not so sure. Do they even have running water or electricity in the South?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  20. dbw

    I think Romney is actually a practicing Weasel

    July 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • v_mag

      ...that's Bishop Weasel to you, sir.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:59 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.