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. WDinDallas

    Another entry to the Belief Blog. All the atheis post to up each others self-esteem.

    We pity you. So pathetic.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jerry

      Not exactly a biblical response, eh? Ephesians 4:15 is worth reading.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • sam

      I thought Jesus said love all and don't judge.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • lou

      I don't care about "freedom of religion", am more interested in freedom from religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  2. Neil

    Who cares about the candidates religion, really? At this point I'm rooting for a candidate to announce they're a follower of Norse Mythology.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Jerry

      Isn't that the guy who was always behind the fince on Home Improvement?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  3. Stephen in VA

    "Thirty percent of Republicans say Obama is Muslim, Pew found, about twice as many who said that during the 2008 campaign."
    Congratulations, Mr. Limbaugh. You have successfully, using no instrument other than a radio transmitter, lobotomized a huge number of your followers. That's like a medical miracle, only the opposite.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  4. MacK

    I just wish Christ would come back to Earth to sort this all out. So many folks would be just dumbfounded about how many false things their paid preachers have told them. They will say anything, take anything out of context and in many cases do anything to protect their filthy lucre.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Your comment gets bonus points for using "filthy lucre" in a sentence.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • plaster city

      We all WISH there was a paradise to go to where an all-perfect being would provide a heaven for us for eternity. Sounds nice, hmm? Makes it understandable why religions have grown up around the idea to help convince ourselves that this wish were actually something real.

      But we, as adults, know better. We are educated enough now to understand that this was all a wish. It's not real, just like Santa Clause.

      And just like when you realized Santa Clause was not real, your world did not crash down all around you. You moved on.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  5. Foreverwar

    Romney's religion is greed.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  6. Truthbetold

    Many people don't even know their own religion let alone a religion of someone else. I asked a co-worker recently if she was christian because she was talking about her upbringing. She replied "No, we are catholic...there's a difference". I had all I could do to not laugh in her face!

    July 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Isn't that really just an issue of semantics though? I think many Americans DO make associate "Christianity" with Protestantism, and Catholism, Mormanism, etc. as distinct.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • phk46

      That's funny.

      I've had Catholics tell me that Protestants aren't Christian. And I've had fundamentalist Protestants tell me that Catholics aren't Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • sam

      That's why there's roughly 30,000 sects of christianity – no one agrees on who's the most christian (or the most 'chosen').

      July 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Truthbetold

      @ lucentsky.... its not at all semantics. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your lord then you are christian. What sect of Christianity doesn't make you more or less christian. If someone asks if you're Christian, you can further clarify by stating what sect but your response should still be "yes I'm a Christian".

      July 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • lucentsky

      But that's only YOUR perspective. There are many opposing believes on what makes a Christian a Christian, and each perspective can sling Bible verses around to support or oppose an argument, but when everyone has to communicate somehow, and rather than trying to impiously disregard the other perspective and refuse to adapt the semantics of another because it doesn't fit your worldview, it's probably more efficient ot attempt to understand the other's worldview and how they catagorize ideas and words.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Truthbetold

      lucentsky........You can only change definitions so much before it doesn't fit the standard definition. I can say I'm a New Yorker when someone asks if I'm an American. It only qualifies what I am but someone else can't say I'm not American because I'm a New Yorker. Yes it may be someones opinion that a certain sect isn't christian....but if that person believes in Christ then the first person is wrong...flat out. The first person may believe that their way is better but it doesn't mean someone else isn't Christian. Opinion, yes. But opinions can be wrong based on generally accepted qualifications.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      " its not at all semantics. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your lord then you are christian. What sect of Christianity doesn't make you more or less christian." A lot of Protestants think Catholics are "going to hell" because they "worship Mary, not Christ" and have extra books in their Bible. They are eager to tell Catholics all about this in nauseating detail until you offer to fire them if they don't hush.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Xdoc

      Man, if most of you would only use that same logic when reading your own Bible, you'd see the contradictions and fallacy in the whole book. But I bet when you try to use the logic to really analyze the Bible, your brain uses some form of chemical to stop yourself from believing the truth of who actually wrote those books and why.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  7. None

    What happened to the separation of church and state?

    July 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • linda

      Agreed. Personally I don't think the faith (or lack of religious faith) of a presidential candidate is at all relevent to his/her ability to run the country. IMO, religion is the root of a great many of our societies inequities and should have no place in public secular life. Keepit in your heart, your home, and your house of worship only.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Still around. Why? have you seen Obama make any decisions that rested only on his religious beliefs?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  8. Fluttershy

    Most people don't know who the Vice President and the Speaker of the House is.In my University,we watched a video of Obama speaking,with Biden and Bohner behind him,and when we were asked to comment,some girl said, 'Those two guys behind the president".She didnt know who those 'two guys' are

    July 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  9. 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 get in the way of those who are supposed to make the decisions.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Bible Clown©

    Those people who say they "don't know the president's religion" or that he is Muslim can also go on and on for 45 minutes about about Jeremiah Wright. Stop polling Birthers and telling us it means something, please.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  11. VinoBianco

    at the end of the day i'd rather have an agnostic or atheist as president than someone who believes in some fairy tale, or thinks that god tells people what to do, or that religion is necessary for morals. can we evolve beyond religion, people? when?

    July 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Too many dummies out in flyover assume atheist = evil person. They call it the Heartland of America, because the brain isn't there.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • linda

      Absolutely! Couldn't agree more fervently!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Xdoc

      Most people will stop believing in religion when all the pieces of the evolutionary ladder and the origins of the universe are solved by science. Well, I say most people because even IF the answer to all of those questions are answered and they are contrary to the Bible, most Bible thumpers will STILL say the Bible answered all of those questions exactly the way science did a long time before. They'll find some way to twist it, it's sad really. So in essence, we're stuck with religion for eternity.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  12. VinoBianco

    Obama is above religion...of course he has to SAY he's christian because that's what all presidents are expected to be. and he probably identifys with a liberal christian tradition more than any other. however, if you were to pick his brain, he's probably more of an agnostic than anything.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  13. judy

    romney is not a christian. Christians believe in the trinity Mormons do not. Check it out. Anyone stupid enough to believe the presiden is a muslim should not be allowed to vote, Forward. 2012

    July 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      I think that should read: "Anyone stupid enough to believe in an intangible, invisible, alien spirit creature with superpowers that reads our minds from another dimension and has powers over us after death should not be allowed to vote"

      July 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Mamaline66

      I agree with with Bible Crown.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • HenryMiller

      I agree with Mass Debater.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • sybaris

      So believing in the trinity is a requirement to be a christian and the trinity debate was finally settled when and by whom?

      4th Century by men

      July 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  14. Fluttershy

    I believe in the great pony overloard,Princess Celestia

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

      For me, it's the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • lou

      For me it's the Emperor of Mankind from Warhammer 40k....now thats a B.A. I can worship


      July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Cthulhu; why settle for a lesser evil?

      July 27, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  15. nonredneck

    Why does any one care about their religion? They both are horrible candidates and will only send the USA further along its path to destruction.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Look up the parable of King Log and King Stork. I think it was one of Aesop's Fables. Tell me if you want that stork instead of the log . . . Obama's done all right, and Mitt doesn't really want the job.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  16. Politics and Religion ???

    I don't want Religion in my Politics and I don't want Politics in my Religion.
    The Republicans lost me a LONG time ago when they went off the deep end with religious guilt
    And I can't be a Democrat either cause some ideas are cuse too left for my comfort.

    I am human, I am humane, I am independent.
    The contradictions in our society are so off the deep end it amazes me .... We can buy a gun, but OHH no we can't have abortion. You can give money tax free to non-profits but non-profits pay no tax, really? I could go one and on ....

    Some one please clean up the mess!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • trey

      you buy a gun to protect your family. You have an abortion to commit an act of murder.
      you need a certain level of morality and intelligence to comprehend this i know.
      but the way you compare the two is foolish.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  17. CHUCK

    faith and religion are two different animals

    July 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  18. Concerned Atheist

    Obama is a Christian cult memeber and Romney is a Mormon Cult member. BTW, Mormonism is not a Christian faith.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Sunny

      You are wrong. Mormons follow Jesus Christ and acknowledge him as our Savior. We are Christians.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Lee

    Anyone who says he is "comfortable" with Romney's religion needs to read "Under the Banner of Heaven." Find out what this candidate who wants to be president of our country actually believes in......and contributes at least 10% of his wealth every year in order to spread this belief. It ain't no religion people....it's a crazy cult.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • birch please

      All religions are cults.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  20. Mrbluiis

    I mean really! Hasn't President Obama presidency represented something more than the obivious. A black man can't do better than a white man and vice versa. Religion, if he is a Muslim...so what?! I don't see him trying to convert Americans. Look at the hysteria when John Kennedy was running for president. A Roman Catholic, the religious fanatics all over the country were shaking in their boots and ready with the torches, thinking he was going to invite the Pope to live at the White House and convert all Americans to Catholisism. Get a damn clue people!. Religion is NOT going to make or break a president. It shouldn't even matter if a person who is running is married or not. This is 2012! What we're worrying about is passee and counterproductive to the real issues. As long as a person is trying their best, wants a great future for all of us, all included then they get my vote.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      When JFK was shot, the rednecks in my home town had a party. They were cheering, same as when MLK was killed. People are evil inside.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
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About this blog

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.