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. beevee

    It just shows how ill informed the american voters about the politics in the country. That is the amin reason why they are easily swayed by the bitter negative advertisements by Romney campaign agianst president Obama. That means if Romney has a campagn money more than the current president he can go on a rampage of negative publicity against Obama to sway the voters. That is a shame.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • lucentsky

      I don't think that American's deserve so much of the blame for being ill-informed. I think it's just a predictable outcome of the American implementation of democracy. Namely, that so much of a stake in government is given to those who own more property. By design, decisions in the U.S. was meant to be made by the wealthy elite, who were considered the "resonsible men" in Madison's day. We aren't really given a real democratic choice in an election. We are given two candidates who differ only very slightly but are still within a narrow band of business doctrine. There's no real motivation for informing the public; in fact, they want to do the opposite by keeping us stupid and docile and away from any real information that could lead us to actually push for decision-making abilities.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  2. ThermalJockey

    Many years ago, a Jewish friend of mine told me something interesting. He said "I really respect Mormons!" I asked him why and he said "Anyone with enough Chutzpah to call ME a gentile has to earn at least some respect." For those who don't know, that's what Mormons call non-Mormons: Gentiles.

    Just a little (true) humor to lighten the postings a bit...

    July 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  3. Betty

    Jesus was a socialist

    July 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Ben

      BUT, Jesus wanted people to give their goods of their own free will, he never forced them to do it. Governments force you to give stuff to people by taking your stuff away.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • vbscript2

      No, no He was not. Socialism means state ownership or control of the means of production in an economy. There are exactly zero recorded incidents of Jesus promoting that economic system.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • mebury

      what PROOF do you have that he actually existed.......simple... none

      July 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  4. edsr of Dallas

    I know WHO and WHAT they are! Romney is a Christian with Mormon leanings.....Obama is a "counterfeit" Christian with closet Muslim leanings. One was BROUGHT UP a Christian and the other a Muslim and you NEVER forget your religion during your early years....no matter who you are or what you are! You are what you are! It is what is is!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      I'll never forget my Christian upbringing, but I am now an avowed atheist. Prove that you are a true Christian and Obama is a counterfit one. Oh wait, you can't. Prove that no person ever raised as a muslim ever converted to Christianity. Oh wait, you can't because your Churchs have missions all over the world trying to convert Muslims or any other faith to Christianity.

      I'm posting this because it should make sense to a person with at least half a brain... Oh, wait, I see you are from Texas, never mind then...

      July 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • mebury

      the scary thing is you actually believe what you just wrote....


      July 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Bill

      EDSR: And you were brought up to lead a blissful life. I imagine you would be offended that Jesus was a Jew. Quite frankly any discussion about religious preferences adds to the eventual righteous act of violence in that religion's name.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • mormon magical underwear

      Romney is a cult bishop sicko who thinks his underwear has magical powers...he belongs locked up in a padded room.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  5. mebury

    wonder what other bronze age beliefs they cling too?......

    July 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  6. Jake Johnson

    What bothers me is that, assuming the poll was reliable, 30% of registered voters do not know that Romney is Mormon and think that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. How can people not know or think these things?

    But I'm not sure that this article states the findings correctly. Don't the second and third paragraphs present contradictory numbers? They say that "Most Americans, 60%, know that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon" (which would mean that 40% don't know) and that "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." So is it 40% who don't know he is Mormon, or is it 32%?

    July 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • anonymice

      32% don't know what he is, and 8% think they know but are wrong. Hence, 40% don't know he's a Mormon. 60% do.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  7. K from AZ

    Easy, Romney is a Mormon: Obama is a muslim!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • lucentsky

      It really must be easy to ignore the facts if it supports your own point of view.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • mebury

      and you are insane.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  8. lovetheusaorleave

    Mitt Romney is a Christian of the Mormon faith, while on the other hand Barrack Hussein Obama sounds like a clear cut and dry musleim name to me. Take into count his high value of the musleim brotherhood and there is no doubt.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Betty

      And how would you know? You cant even spell the word much less understand the meaning.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • mebury

      tin foil on a little tight today?

      July 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  9. gargle

    30% of GOP voters think Obama is a muslim. hilarious.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And 34% of 'conservative Republicans'

      July 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Jamal0390

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought we had a separation of church and state. I know that your personal faith acts as ones own personal moral and spiritual compass, however the president should through out his personal beliefs in exchange for the betterment of all americans citizens not the 2% of the wealthy class or the corporations, but all americans

    July 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Article VI. of the Constitution of the United States is very clear on this subject:
      "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 2:46 pm |
  11. Colin

    I strongly suspect Obama is an atheist who feigns religious belief to shore up his black vote. At worst, he is probably agnostic. I also suspect that Romney is agnostic or atheist but keeps his Mormon ties for business/political reasons.

    In any case, their sky-fairy beliefs are about as relevant to their jobs as their star signs.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Entil'za

      " their sky-fairy beliefs are about as relevant to their jobs as their star signs"

      To be blunt..you are an arrogant twit. "Sjy-fairy", where do you idiots get this stuff?
      If a person is the leader of 300 million people, you do not think his personal beliefs have anything to do with him or perhaps the decisions he will make?
      Now a President should try and stay within the law as best he can and represent the rights of the citizens regardless of personal bias. But no person can completely detach themselves from there core beliefs.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  12. lucentsky

    I would like to know how business convinced America that socialism is somehow contrary to Christian doctrine.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • K from AZ

      Simple: socialism' s god is the gov't whereas Christianity recognizes only one true, tarnscendent God. For socialists: the gov't giveth, the gov't taketh away, praised be the gov't!

      July 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  13. Ruben A. Jacobs

    Obama had his chance! I only support the president and the president to come. Beggers can be choosers cause we put him into office, thats all iIm REALLY saying.


    July 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Right, the President had his chance! If he wasn't able to cut the defecit and unemployment in half in the year and a half he had before the republican congress came in and stopped anything else from getting done, then why should we elect him again? I mean, 18 months is more than enough to turn around the largest economic disaster since the great depression right?...

      It just makes me want to vomit at the ignorance of the American people, and specificly the majority of idiots running the republican party. They not only have no clue as to how our government works or what it takes to change laws, they wouldn't know a good president from a hole in the ground if they didn't first ask their pastor or fox news pundit their opinion.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  14. tafugate

    i can honestly say it's never entered my mind to care what a presidential candidate's (or anyone else's for that matter) religion is. now, if a candidate would say he thought religion was a pointless psychological opiate, he would automatically get my vote regardless of politics. but i would imagine they calculate atheists will vote for whomever, and they have to pander to the religious types, because they wouldn't vote for an atheist.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. norma jean.

    I don't care what religion Romney is because I'm not voting for him anyway...Religion should be only a minimal part of ones vote anyway... Some one wrote in one of these columns that he hadn;t heard any big noise about Kennedy being Catholic when he ran for president!.. Well, this person must have been asleep or only ten years old at the time because I'm old and I remember quite a lot of noise at the time.At one point it looked like JFK might not make it, but to the delight of most voters ..he did!!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • jo an

      Romney's religion does not keep me from voting for him...there is a long list of reasons I think he is dangerous for the presidency and religion is not on the list.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  16. The Asian Atheist

    The fact that Romney is a mormon should bar him from the presidency. How can anyone believe that Joseph Smith told the truth, the book of mormon has charlatan written all over it! In 1826 he was a convicted con artist, who a few years later came back as a prophet. Pretty ridiculous.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Dave Sangster

    Religion is rightfully called a faith. We should be more interested in facts and forget faiths.

    What each of them as individuals think is more important than what their generic religions purport to be the truth.

    Both individuals support some ideas that run contrary to their religions.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  18. phk46

    I would like to know how the Republicans have been able to convince such a large fraction of the electorate that Obama is a Muslim, in spite of overwhelming evidence that he is not and never has been.

    On the one hand he is a radical because of the influence of the (Christian) reverent Jeremia Wright. On the other hand he is a Muslim! Go figure.

    I don't care what religion people claim, as long as they don't let it render them irrational.
    (For the most part that means they don't believe a lot of it.)

    I'm reasonably confident there was a Jesus, and he was a nice man who did some good things and recommended some behaviors that were helpful. The rest is just hocus pokus.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Jack Bissette

    That's because most American's are ignorant! If you don't take the time to know your candidate's religion.... you shouldn't vote. PERIOD. Take time to vet your or both candidate's. That's one of the reason's we ended up w/ this Marxist clown!

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

      I don't want anyone's religion in my government. Everyone should keep their respective beliefs to themselves.

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

      No. Focus on the issues. And stop inventing nonsense about who's 'Marxist'. Go ahead and tell us the real reason you don't like Obama. And, ps: please don't vote. You're not smart enough to help decide how this country is run.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  20. US Taxpayer

    I think Obama is a closet non-believer, much as Thomas Jefferson and some the other Founding Fathers were. In America, even in this day and age, claiming to be an atheist or an agnostic would be political suicide. Does it really matter who or what a candidate worships, as long as the safety and well being of the country are the priorities of the candidate? As long as the POTUS does the job that they're elected to do, their personal beliefs matter little. I'd be far more concerned if a raving lunatic religious fanatic got elected and relied more on prayer than action. Whatever Obama's personal beliefs are, I give him credit for giving the order to shoot the worlds most dangerous Muslim (OBL) in the head. George W Bush waited for God to do it.

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

      So you can view what's in people's hearts....are you GOD? If not, stop your judging....read the Gospels. You'll get it hopefully.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sam

      Right – so long as they do their job, it shouldn't matter. Unless...they believe it's their job to discriminate against certain parts of the population based on what their religion tells them. That's a problem. The person in office needs to remember they are EVERYONE's president.

      Dan – you're an idiot, the gospels are full of judgment.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:52 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.