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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. LB Colorado

    Romney is mormon, most mormons I have ever met were kind and hard working. Obama says he is a Christian, but he denounces the bible and what it says, he goes against everything that is Godly, so I am saying a Christian he may think he is, but not sooooo much. I don't think he is muslim as they would have his head for saying he is Christian. Narcissism a possibility. It is really too bad, cause his personality is awesome.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      Obama's personality, charisma, and fairy tale is what got him elected. Just ask Bill Clinton.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jerry

      Excellent assessment!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • lou

      like the GOP debate when the audience booed Paul for citing the golden rule for foreign policy....you are all a bunch of hypocrites

      July 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Xdoc

      "He who is without sin, throw the first stone". Or at least something like that says the bible. You guys need to read your own religious book that pretty much states, "stop judging others' sins and look at yours".

      July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Phllyphan

    I don't care about Romney's religious beliefs, I want to see 10 years of his back taxes.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • nobody important

      Romney's tax returns matter just as much as Obama's college transcripts... zero.

      I do care about my taxes, however.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  3. RomneyCares Less

    Wake up people about how Mormons feel about women!
    Read, "Secret Ceremonies, A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond", by Deborah Laake.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Oh, like your Bible is any better to women.

      Leviticus 19:20 "And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free."

      July 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Jerry

      My business partner is Mormon and he dotes on his wife and treats her with love and respect. Your wirter may have had a bad experience, but you cannot paint all Mormon men with the same dirt.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Frank

    I know that Romney is a member of a large and powerful cult. Even though he wants to keep his tax returns hidden from us so we don't see what's on them, I would still vote for him if he promised to reinstate the Bush/Cheney/Obama rollback of Habeas Corpus. It's not right for the government to be able to arrest and indefinitely detain a US citizen without any access to lawyers or family or visitors. The right to due process is a pretty important one in the country, and it's very wrong that Bush/Cheney revoked that right and that Obama didn't restore it.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      Bush and Obama share the same Globalization agenda where Nations and Peoples are subjects to the Elite of a 'New World Order'. So the Cult we need to be most concerned with is the one that Bush and Obama are loyal to.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  5. RichP - S CA

    So, how come Romney isn't releasing his tax returns? What is he possbly hiding? Support and/or money he may have used in support of CA Prop-8? Offshore accounts? How much money he may "donate" to the Mormon Church?? Even his father said he needs to release them. It is my guess that that the Democratic party will make such a big deal of it that it could cost him the election. Regardless, WE just want to know. Thanks.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • billiam62

      He has already stated how much money he donates to the Mormon Church. Last time I checked, that was not illegal. I feel one hundred percent positive that if he has done anything wrong, the IRS would have looked into it. None the less, he probably not releasing his returns because it would make a difference. He is still going to be attacked. How about Obama releasing all of the records he is hiding such as school financing, etc. it is all a big game.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  6. philtration

    I am an Atheist and I find the whole debate dumb at best.
    I do not follow make believe friends that live in the sky and it would be nice if the man leading the country did the same.
    I want an Independent Atheist president without a lot of baggage dragging him down.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Q

      I'm not saying that all republicans are stupid, but all the stupid people I know are republicans....Just sayin

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

      Atheism another Masonic creation, gotta love the programming when it's accepted so whole heartedly.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • lucentsky

      @OOPs: Atheism came LONG before the Masons. You really need to inform yourself.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Frank

      I'm an agnostic because it's just as dumb to have faith in the nonexistance of something without a shred of evidence to support your belief as it is to have faith in the existance of something without a shred of evidence to support that belief. Science for the win, atheist.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Frank

      You do realize that agnostic and atheist aren't mutually exclusive, and in fact answer different questions don't you?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @OOPs,

      how do you figure that atheism is a masonic concept?

      Masons are usually from religious backgrounds and generally Protestant.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • v_mag

      To be a Mason, you have to express a belief in diety and the immortality of the soul. It's entirely up to the man to determine his concept of diety and soul, so there is a lot of leeway. Masons are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and just about any other religious tradition, and many Masons are not a part of any organized religion.

      Washington and other Masons from the Enlightenment were Diests. Masonry always comes into the discussion of Mormonism because Joseph Smith was booted from Masonry and co-opted Masonic rites, turning them from symbolic observances into elements of his cult.

      If you want to rail against Masons, you will be railing against a large number of American presidents and patriots, as well as celebrities like Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and Buzz Aldrin. Wikipedia has an extremely long list of famous Masons, so you might want to consult that before you put them down.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  7. Scott Clark

    Sorry Andrea, your Jesus Christ of the book of mormon is not the Jesus Christ of "The Bible" and if anybody out there doubts that, just watch the video "Jesus or Joseph, you decide" on Youtube!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Davis

      Hmmmm, let's see Scott, He's the one born of Mary, cousin of John the Baptist, was baptized by John, took the sins of the world upon him and suffered and died on a cross at Calvary. Before that he was written of in the Gospels with many teachings and parables. He rose from the tomb and appeared to his mother and disciples. And he lives today. Is it the same?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Q

      He came back and landed in Palmira NY. Strange thing is the only one he spoke to was Smith and even then you needed magic glasses to read the revised edition of the bible. It was handy that adulterer Smith was advised he was good to go...

      July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Rawbird

      yea, lol, you will surely find out who the real Jesus-Christ is on You Tube... now that is funny

      July 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Tomcodyfire

      hahahahahaha, youtube is where I go for TRUTH!

      Scott – you and Nikki.... DERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  8. ramicio

    Both are satanists. Barack Hussein Obama / Barry Soetoro / Harrison J. Bounel / + 80 other aliases is a Muslim. Willard Mittens Romney is a Mormon. Both cults are luciferian in nature.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Scott Clark

      I disagree that Obama is a Muslim. He shows way too much compassion for the needy in this country to be a Muslim.

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

      Complete and utter nonsense. What planet do you live on?

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

      We are all dumber for reading this post.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Rehabman11

      and so is yours, no matter what it may be.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  9. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Mass D,

    more to your point, The Constitution of the United States, Artlcle VI. states:
    "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

    As a matter of founding principle, we should not require any particular religious belief of our elected officials.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      oops – wrong spot

      July 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Q

      We got to route out this sharia law...

      July 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • ramicio

      That just means Congress can not establish a law preventing a person of certain religion from being President. It's still everyone's business and it is something that everyone has the right to consider when voting.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @ramcio,

      agreed that it means a personal faith cannot make one ineligible for the Presidency.

      To me a more meaningful interpretation is inherent in the notion of religious test. We should not officially or unofficially judge a candidate by his or her religious beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "It's still everyone's business and it is something that everyone has the right to consider when voting."

      You are correct, everyone has a right to consider what ever they want when voting. They can consider Obama's ear's to big or Romney's hair to shiny. They can consider which one is right or left handed. They can consider if one prefers Superman or Spiderman. They can consider which President likes Basketball or Football more. They can debate the in's and out's of whether the Presidents have in'ies or out'ie belly buttons.

      The point is, considering their religions SHOULD be as pointless as that, but it isn't because some Americans actually believe their religion makes a difference because they think THEIR God is real, but that other guy's isn't. Much like a comic book fan will debate how much Superman would kick Spidy's ass, they lose grip on the reallity that neither of those comic book "God's" exist.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Bob Lewis

    Who care? I'd be a lot more comfortable if they had no religion.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  11. bk753

    "Thirty percent of Republicans say Obama is Muslim, Pew found, about twice as many who said that during the 2008 campaign" This is an example of the distortions, lies, and disinformation advanced by the uber-conservatives, Tea Party, and racists. In 3+ years, truth has not prospered, but lies and deceit have. You think people just woke up and decided the President is a religion he ISN'T? NO! My e-mail is flooded by daily LIES and DISTORTION courtesy of the hateful and racist. (Talk about having it BOTH ways? They get to criticize him for his Chicago pastor in one election, and then call him a Muslim in the next?? What??) What kind of desperate people spread lies like this?? Oh yeah. Conservative Republicans.

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

      The entire point of this article was to show that most people don't know the faiths of either candidate, but if more knew Romney's, more would vote for Obama... so let's start at the appropriate place when we're talking about spreading deceit.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  12. Portland tony

    Just goes to show ya, religious folks are loud and get a lot of press...but almost no one gives a damn about their hoots!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  13. webpg63

    Romney is a Mormon and Obama is a Moron.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Scott Clark

      You know the old saying "Takes one to know one" pal!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Larry

      got to love that comment

      July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  14. KBW

    Who cares about their religion; that is a personal freedom. Since every religion says if you don't go to their god, you go to hell; We are going to some kind of hell.

    Just don't vote for the same 2 parties again; time for a definite change

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

      Having the illusion of choice is all you got...sorry.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  15. OOPs

    Romney = Mormon that spent time with the learned elders of Zion. Probably why he gets away with things like holding money offshore etc.

    Obama= fraudulent American citizen that had his name change done in BC, Canada between 1982-84. Is at the forefront of of the "new dawn, new day" propaganda= kinda like world communism slogan. LOL

    July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jake Johnson

      Mr. Obama decided to take the name of his step-father after his mother remarried. That is not unusual.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  16. George

    Religion reflects values so in many ways it does matter when electing POTUS. We are just a little paranoid about the whole issue, but think about it, would a Scientologist be able to be elected? Wicca follower? Pagan?
    Issue with LDS is it its beliefs, customs and secrecy. It is more of an issue than the more familiar religions (Baptists, Catholics, Judasim, and even Islam). South Park did a wonderful episode on this, and of course the creators of South Park made the musical THe Book of Mormon. I saw an old MGM Parade on TCM from 1955 which gave an account of the migration of the Mormons to Utah. What was interesting was ALL the families in this little "historical" account showed only one wife per family. The fact that Brigham Young had 55 wives was not shown in the piece. It was obviously a film made to reshape history. (I have always known that Henry VIII started my religion so he could get a divorce). The LDS rewrites so much of its history. That is of concern because when you boil it down, that's lying and lying is a sin, especially for a President. Romney always deflects questions about his religion, even though he was a missionary for 3 years and a bishop. What's the problem? So, in this case, it does matter, and hey, lets not forget all the coverage Sean Hannity has given to Rev Wright, if it's sauce for the Goose...

    July 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @George,

      I understand your point, but how do you square that with this:

      The Constitution of the United States, Artlcle VI. states:
      "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

      July 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Adam

      Film made to reshape history or the LDS trying to put the polygamy issue behind them. Think about it, how would the film had gone down IF they had shown men traveling with multiple wives? Then people would think the LDS are trying to bring polygamy back. Look, the LDS haven't practiced polygamy since 1890. Only rouge members practiced it after 1890. The LDS church did not make the existing polygamist families disband and for good reason. Would you break up a family? They simply stated that going forward, no polygamist marriages were allowed which is the correct approach. You can't tear apart a family and I think they did right in this.

      Did you really quote 'South Park' as a reference? I guess we know what we're dealing with here. Mormons are not tryng to rewrite history at all, just trying to move past an issue that's plagued the church for over 100 years after it's been stopped. And the only reason Romney is deflecting questions about his church is quite simple, like the rest of us he feels it's irrelevant to the fact he's running for president. People like you want to make it an issue so he'll look weird and out of touch. Whatever.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Christopher M.

    I don't need religion or god. Child believe in Santa Clause. The Santa Clause for adults is GOD. I'm an adult who grew out of god.

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

      Mormons can convert you even after you are dead. Now thats powerful dude...

      July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The Santa Clause is a movie. I assume you mean Santa Claus.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • billiam62

      Q – Do you really want to know the truth about their beliefs or would you rather stay ignorant?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Dan Gilgoff,

    Could you at least have linked us to the Pew Survey you comment on?
    http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/2012-romney-mormonism-obamas-religion.aspx

    Why did you indicate an increase in awareness of the President's faith since 2010, when overall, it actually decreased since 2008?
    2008 55% believe Obama is a Christian
    2010 38%
    2012 49%

    The most salient point the Pew survey makes is that the opinion that the President is a Muslim in conservative Republicans has more than doubled!
    2008 16%
    2012 34%
    Even independent voters holding this opinion changed from 11% to 16%.

    This is astonishing. The brainwashing power of hearing the same rhetoric day after day from unfair and unbalanced Fox News is amazing.

    66% of people polled believe that religion is losing its influence on life in America. I hope so, but I don't see it. This opinion is held largely by people who see this as a bad thing.

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

      We aren't losing religion. We are losing Christianity, but gaining socialism and pseudoscience.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @ramcio,

      except for the psuedoscience, (which I would agree is problematic) I see this as a good thing.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  19. Mass Debater

    I would prefer to hire a President who works for American's to do the job we hired him for which is the fiscal governance of a secular nation. If either of them plan of working for their respective religions they should be fired.

    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Matt 6:24

    Well the President's job is to serve money, not God, as you republicans so often like to point out when you chant "Job's Job's Job's!!"

    July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mass D.

      What belonging to Job, do Republicans chant about?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mass D, reposted

      more to your point, The Constitution of the United States, Artlcle VI. states:
      "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

      As a matter of founding principle, we should not require any particular religious belief of our elected officials.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Have you not gotten the Fox News talking point memo? The one where they are supposed to chant "Job's Job's Job's" everytime the economy is mentioned in an attempt to make it seem like Obama is responsible for the unemployment numbers when it's really the Bush economy and bank bailout coupled with a do nothing republican congress that is keeping us above 8% unemployment as the republicans have been planning since Nov 4th 2008. The worst possible thing for them to have had happen was a quick recovery and an infrastructure job's bill that put Americans back to work and got the unemployment back under 4%. That would have been completely unacceptable under a "black muslim" President.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mass D.

      I was being pedantic. I think you mean "job, jobs, jobs".

      "Job's, Job's, Job's" means that which belongs to Job. (Like the 'book of' the same name.)

      July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Rawbird

      The president's job is to serve money...man oh man, really, to serve money.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  20. Nikki

    Romneys grandpa was Ran out of the USA to Mexico for having 12 wives and some as young as 11 years old,and being a Mormon cultist polygamist.When Romneys grandpa got to mexico he was gunned down by a jealous husband of one of his wives......Yeah these are the cult values we dont want in the whitehoiuse.Romney believes in the same things as his grandpa.........what sickos

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

      Show us your proof!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Adam

      You couldn't be more wrong. Mitt's grandfather Gaskell Romney wasn't a polygamist at all. He had one wife. You may be talking about his great grandfather Miles Park Romney who had 5 wives, but only one had been married before and she was a widow when Miles married her. Miles died of natural causes in Mexico. I don't know where you got that he was shot by some angry ex-husband. Probably the same place you're getting all your information – the sack of lies. If you do a little research, you'll also find that all Mile's wives were at least 18 or 19 when he married them so there goes that lie about marrying 11 year olds too. When it comes down to it, you're simply a bigot trying to spew lies to the uninformed. Best of luck with that.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tomcodyfire

      HAHAHAHA! Hey Nikki.... DERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:51 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.