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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.

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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. Scott Clark

    All they have to do is go to Youtube and watch the video "Jesus or Joeseph, you decide" and they can see for themselves just how wacked out Mormons really are. If you might have one of these wackos running the country, you should at least take the time to see what rediculous crap he believes in and practices1!!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • daveyoung

      Mitt is a Christian, Barack is a muzzlim. Period.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Duh

      and daveyoung is a whiny little girl on his period, period.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • billiam62

      I supposed it is not really unexpected to see biggotry alive and well.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • TownC

      Or you could go to Mormon.org. To get information on Mormons would you get information from a group that hates Mormons? That is like asking Republicans what Democrats believe.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Stan

    Religion affects how people act and what they believe in, both of which heavily influence a potential president's administration. So a candidate's religion should matter, regardless of how PC you want to be about accepting people's beliefs. This person's beliefs will directly affect you.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • J Ryan

      you're right/- That's why "religion poisons everything" as the late C Hitchens proved

      July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  3. snowboarder

    Faith is Individual. And so is 'Salvation'.
    Obama's push for 'Collective Salvation' is in line with Lucifer's plan. Otherwise Christ would have preached to to Roman government to impose his 'Social Doctrine' upon the masses. No, Christ went unto the least of these to give them an opportunity to 'Choose', 'Serve', be 'Gracious', .... He was the 'Good Shepard' that would leave the 99 to find the one; and not send the 99 to find the one.
    Grace forced is not Grace, but 'Bondage'.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • lucentsky

      What is Obama's push for "Collective Salvation," in your opinion?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • lucentsky

      I think anyone who is knowledgeable about New Testament doctrine would tell you that what you just said comes extremely close to blasphemy, or distorting the words of God to support your own political agenda. Jesus said nothing about industrial nations, political parties, or how an economy should be run. The closest thing he ever said about politics was "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." He also said that his is not an earthly Kingdom, and that the earth belonged to the prince of darkness. Jesus told his followers not to worry about such things on earth, for there's is the kingdom of heaven.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      This article does point out that people claim others are committing blasphemy for what they themselves don't even understand.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  4. RomneyCares Less

    A Mormon is NOT a Christian. Educate yourselves, please! It is a cult. If you move an inch towards thinking for your self you are ostracised. Half my family are Mormons. M.R. sees everything, all of life through his warped cult lens! He's 3rd generation. Also a Bishop, which he is, speaks for god! Wake up people!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      All organized religions are cults.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      And you aren't even a Christian for be so judgmental of who is Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Adam

      You do realize that the definition of a cult is "A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object." That makes ALL religions cults.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  5. Nikki

    Christians wear a cross.....Mormon cultists worship their Mormon Magical Underwear lol,they believe it protects them from evil and the most devout shall never take them off.Can you Imagine how nasty Romneys magical pantys are from never taking them off being a cult bishop lol. Sorry Romney you can keep your Magical skidmarked underwear we do not want you in the whitehouse ,I am also a Repub/tea party.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • BU2B

      Christians worship a god who, for some reason, decided that he must sacrifice his son, so he could forgive the imperfectness of humans that he made to be imperfect. Just as much of a cult as any other.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Davis

      Oh Nikki, ignorance is bliss, isn't it?
      We are dumber for just reading your dribble.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Tomcodyfire

      Nikki! Glad to see a fellow hick from the south on here – DERRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

      I do love BU2B's explanation – spot on... get this: "true" Christians believer in the Trinity... that God the father, son and holy ghost are the same thing.... So we're saying God killed himself on the cross and yelled out to himself when he was in agony? Sounds like somebody might be into S&M, eh?

      ...hey Nikki!... DERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Joel

      Wow what an uninformed judgmental bigot!!! I would suspect your proud of that correct?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  6. Marla

    As a Secular Humanist, a politician's beliefs don't matter to me. That said, Romney's beliefs do worry me. As a bishop in his so-called church, he is so steeped in those traditions that I think that he would bring too much of it to his decisions as a president. President Obama on the other hand, has done a nice job of keeping his beliefs where they belong – in private unless he's doing something that demands displaying them, such as prayer breakfasts, etc.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • J Ryan

      All religions are equally false and a threat to civilization. So you think Romney will press the nuke button when Jesus returns to Missouri with the mount of olives? Maybe Barry will push the button when his chickens come home to roust

      July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      J Ryan – Civilizations exist because of 'Belief' whether Religious in nature or not. But most of the prominent Civilizations have fallen to due to the perversion or abandonment of Religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      J Ryan – If Jesus comes back; Mitt won't need to push any buttons.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  7. Gary

    To be a Christian, would mean you are a follower of Christ, no evidence to accuse either of that.
    Now is Romney a Moron sorry I meant to say Mormon ....... or did I
    Safe to say when it comes to serving the interests of the American people, both are simply lost.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • k

      But you are correct in calling some one a moron??? Could you be a moron too?? Probably!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • billiam62

      who told you that Mormons are not christians?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  8. y

    Who cares about their faith?? What happened to separation of Church and State?? This kind of dialogue is a waste of time and fodder for arguments! But that's what this country loves...a lot of arguing! We wouldn't know what to do if there wasn't a war going on or a lot of bickering to be had!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  9. gop usa

    I am a christian conservative repub and Romneys cult religion is a no vote for me.I hope people wake up and see Romney is a cultist and should never be in the whitehouse.Do we want a man who thinks his undies or pantys are magical??? Do we want a man who worships Joesoph Smith the polygamist,murderer making laws for America?? I sure dont and I am a repub who will not sell out my faith for a cult bishop ....

    July 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Bobby

      Somone should point out to this guy that he is in a cult as well.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • billiam62

      Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith. They think of him as a prophet much as the prophets in the bible.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • TownC

      Go to Mormon.org to get a picture of who Mormons are and what they believe.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Andrea

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU MAKE LAUGH SOOO HARD !!!.
      YOU ARE SO WRONG AND IGNORANT.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jon

      gop usa,
      I'm not buying that you're a christian conservative. No true conservative would even consider voting for the socialist/marxist obama. And I doubt, based on your comments, that you're even a true christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  10. Mark Strauss

    Everyone knows Romey's a "Moran" not sure about Obama, neither smart enough to say none of the above. but both weak enough to claim they have religion, how elsde would they ever get elected

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

      Obama has said he was a Christian on numerous occasions, just as almost every other president of the United States.

      You've already pointed out the reason for this: so they can get elected. A campaign really has very little to do with informing the American public on what policies are beneficial and which are harmful, which is exactly what it should be about. Rather, a campaign is a commercial run by the PR industry the same way toothpaste is advertised. It has nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with superficial qualities that those running the campaigns feel will garner more shot-term interest from the public. I mean, can you imagine if a president actually tried to explain the in's-and-out's of socialized healthcare within a sixty minute block, while the other candidate has already warped the public's perception being all recognition in the same time that the other guy made his boring lecture on truth and equality?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • J.W

      What is a Moran?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  11. Mormon Magical Underwear

    Romney is a cult Bishop who worships a religion that a con man,molester rapist,murderer made up to help him with his polygamy beliefs.Mormons are not even close to being chiristian in any way.Mormons are responsible for many crimes against women and children.Any man who believes his underwear has magical powers is a sicko and belongs in a padded room........

    July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • J Ryan

      I got news for you. All religions are equally false. They are all delusional wish thinking.

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

      and Christians believe a well-meaning guy walked on water, turned water into wine, died, then flew up into the clouds to sit next to a big guy with a flowing white beard on a huge throne. Sounds just as ridiculous.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • mk

      As if worshipping a god who orders the slaughter of babies and kills masses of people at a time and thinks that incest is best is any better. Go read your book.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Mark Strauss

      RIDE ON!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKZDnvbQDMA&feature=relmfu

      July 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Andrea

      Mister `Mormon Magical Underwear`.
      You are a 100% Incorrect in what you are saying.
      I can't see from the way write you are not a christian.
      My Christ teaches to love one another. Who is your Christ and what does your Christ teach you?.
      Mormons believe in Jesus the Christ, I AM A MORMON and you ofended me with your words.
      God bless you and bless your country too.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • MEtoo

      Are you some loser................wow the US can do better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  12. MeinNJ

    It's none of my business what anyone's religion is. I'm not interested in a candidate's religion because I'm electing the President, not the Pope. Religion has no place whatsoever in the governing of the USA. If anyone is interested in have a theocratic government, might I suggest packing your bags and moving to oh, say, Saudi Arabia or Iraq or Afghanistan....

    July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • billiam62

      As a Christian, I would have not problem whatsoever electing an athiest so long as he held my political views. It has never been a concern of mine what religious views are held by a canidate for any office. And yes, I know that I am in the minority.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  13. Martian LDS

    What do Muslims, Mormons & Christians all have in common? The same supposed founder of their religion!! Yes, thats right, all three hail from Abrahamic roots. So wouldn't that make them all just slightly different shades of the same color? We got dark blue, light blue, navy blue, baby blue, sky blue... but YOU'RE ALL JUST FVCKING BLUE!!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • J Ryan

      the answer to your question is "they're all delusional" – this is why we have separation of church and state. "Build up that wall!"

      July 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      I wonder what the percent is of self proclaimed Christians who know they have the same religious founder as their Muslim counterparts. I'm guessing it's fewer than those who don't know the President is a Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  14. Marti58

    Religious belief (or lack of) is a private matter. Period.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Chuck

      Should be but it's not.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Whatever122

    Absolutely astounding that people truly believe our President is Muslim (not that there's anything wrong with that belief system – it has its good things and bad things just like the rest of them).

    Proof that FOX news is working as intended – brainwashing the masses.

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

      I agree. I think it has more to do with a deep-seated fear of minorities and immigrants in our country that dates back to the country's inception. When you actually look at other societies, America in general is a deeply insular one.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • billiam62

      I challenge to show me one article or instance on Fox news where they state that Obama is a Muslim.

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

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC0g5l9kq94

      instance of Fox and their "reporting"

      July 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • billiam62

      What a guest says and what Fox News abdocates is not the same. You can find differing opinions everywhere, unless you are saying that they walk in line on every other network or they just don't allow differing opinons?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Whatever122

      But he's right – no FOX news COMMENTATOR has called the President a Muslim, just their guests and the commentators don't disagree...

      I apologize – they've called him a socialist, a communist, and associated him with Nazism and terrorism... Just never outright called him a Muslim.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      Billiam62,
      As any former cult member will tell you it is not what you are told, it is what you are led to believe. The idea is to infer an idea and ask leading questions. That way the person under indoctrination will think that they came to a belief on their own and this will make it more ‘real’ . This is what Fox does and yes, I have witnessed this.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Janine from TX

      Fox Noise has proven to be one of the most outragious lying machines to hit TV....period! Very damaging to this country.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  16. 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. The closest we have had is Thomas Jefferson, who by all accounts might be considered an agnostic.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • MeinNJ

      Amen! 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      Agreed!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Janine from TX

      That would be too good to be true; I'd vote for that person; they'd actually pay attention to science.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  17. blackpeoplemeet.com

    They are both white Jesus lovers so who cares?

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

      Yeah. Mitt's Jesus comes from Missouri. Obama's Jesus comes from Jerusalem.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  18. Chuck

    Obama is a Christian. Mitt is a cult member.

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

      They're both cult members.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  19. Mormon Magical Underwear

    Step right up folks step right up at Romneys next campain stop he is giving out some goodies! First you will recieve some Mormon Magical Underwear that protects you from evil that only the most devout shall never take off.Next you will recieve the Book Of Mormon that the rapist,molester,conman murderer wrote to use as a tool to take advantage of his worshipers.Then you will recieve an autographed picture of Joesoph Smith who is the messiah for the mormons ,the conman who wrote the book of Mormon and made a perverted mockery out of the bible.You will also get directions on how to become a god when you die and travel to a planet named KOLOb that the mormons believe their god lives.Also you will recieve instructions on why all colored people are spawns of evil as the mormons teach. Sorry but MORMONS are nothing even cose to christians.They believe in polygamy,molestation,and the worship of Joesoph Smith the molester,murderer.The Mormons will deny this becauser they do not want to be arrested or persecuted by the public.This is why they are super secret because if people really knew what they were about they would be run out of town and rightfully so.Why on earth would anyone want a president in office who believes his underwear is magical.......he belongs locked up in a padded room for being a weirdo cultist.....Romney you can take you magical skidmarked underwear some where else but not the whitehouse you weirdo sicko..... I find it funny how many christian repubs are willing to look the other way and vote for a cult bishop and go against their own christian beliefs lo

    July 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • ajk68

      It surprises me how many people attack Obama for his weak Christian views (which are weak) but seem o.k. with someone who is decidedly not Christian – although sharing moral criteria (not that he necessarily lives up to it). It's also ironic how the anti-Christians that post on the web are almost uniformly for Obama.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • D-Walt

      I'm a Mormon and have no clue what you're talking about. And as for my "magic underpants" – depressing that they aren't magic; wish they were though. That'd be sick. For my first wish, I'd smite you and have you drown in a wet bucket of sh!t.

      And yeah, like ALL Mormons, I wash them... warm water, spin dry.... low heat (maybe high heat would make them magic!!!?)

      July 26, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. levi

    This just in: Ann Romney was spotted at the olympics today in London. Her horse named "Rafalca" is competing. Also seen with her was the horses a$$. Mitt

    July 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Like many other americans, the Romneys are sports fans. Just like the rest of us, they have opted to purchase a horse capable of competing in the olympics. American as apple pie. If you like the olympics and don't have the physique and skills to compete, you can always buy a horse, or become a financial supporter of an athlete. If you like nascar, you can buy a car or two and hire a driver and a pit crew. If you like baseball, there are several good teams you can buy outright, or aquire a major share of. Sports is for everyone.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:18 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.