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. Steve

    Not only do 30% of Republicans think Obama is Muslim, they are convinced against all facts to the contrary that they are correct. The otther 70% of the Republicans defend the ignorance of the 30% as Obama's fault.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Peter

      Repukelicans hate Obama so much, that they will vote for a complete MORON who wears Magic Underwear! He will need them when he $#t% himself on loosing the election!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  2. BigBird Johnson

    Romney is a Mormon Christian.
    Obama is an atheist.
    Personally, I don't think it matters. As long as their religion or belief does not directly affect their decisions.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • just sayin

      BigBird Johnson

      Romney is a Mormon Christian.
      Obama is an atheist.
      Personally, I don't think it matters. As long as their religion or belief does not directly affect their decisions.

      First Romney is no Christians, he is Mormon. Secondly you have no basis that Obama is an Atheist. Keep lying

      July 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Steve

      Why would you lie about Obama being a Christian?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • John P

      I'm guessing Obama is neither an atheist or a Christian; he's too pragmatic and logical to much of a believer in anything so he's probably agnostic. I suspect that Obama attended Reverend Wright's services for the entertainment value and as a cultural experience that might give him cred with the black community.
      I wouldn't miss a Wright sermon if I were passing through Chicago nor would I miss a native American spiritual ceremony if I were invited. It's important to be respectful at these things, I might add.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  3. Dave

    Can't see voters caring that much since so many only make it to church on Easter and Christmas. Even when I was deployed with up to 6,000 personnel, chapel had less than 50 on Sundays.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yes the apparent paradox that unmasks the hypocrisy of the non-observerant "believers" in this society.

      They think they are believers, but so many don't practice – either in their day-to-day lives or even a weekly observance for form's sake.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  4. Don't be hatin'

    Imagine there's no religion. It's easy if you try. (not a quote).

    July 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  5. james

    Why not say obamas religion. You say christian. Mormons are christians.

    So out his religion please 🙂

    July 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I guess Mormons are a sort of small "c" Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jeez

      Here's another poll.....Who cares?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Those who are trying to get elected live for such polls.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Dave

    GOP has been trying to convince Americans that President Obama is Muslim and non-American since he's been elected.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      True, and before that they wanted us to believe that George W. Bush was elected.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Peter

      Because they appeal to the same idiot, redneck class whose jobs they have shipped overseas, Repukelicans are not idiots, they are just the devil incarnate!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Just that they believe in a sky fairy indicates that they are suicide bombers in the making.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  8. lynn

    chistians abandon their faith for a screwball cult .

    July 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      What screwball cult are you following?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  9. Russ

    I don't give a rats fart – as long as they aren't some fanatical wacko who thinks everyone should think exactly like they do, chant the same chants, and believe in the same magic powers. Since that takes out about 80% of republicans there usually isn't much of an option. If I feel the candidate is competent and intelligent then they are worthy of consideration for a vote.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  10. N.Shapiro

    I thin religion, or lack of it is a persona matter, and generally don't care.
    But Romney was a door to door misionary, and falsely claimed to be a minister to avoid the Vietnam draft.
    I don't trust missionaries, they are arrogant, lying con men, and a fake clergy identification to avoid the draft?
    Romney is No good !.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  11. bakum

    How is it "your" faith if someone else has to tell you what it is?

    July 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  12. hsaffran

    A person's reilgion neither makes them a good person nor a bad person; neither a strong leadr nor a weak leader. It is a person's actions and behavior that say who they are.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • sybaris

      However, there are exceptions.

      Bush said that his god told him that invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

      Result: Tens of thousands of dead innocent Iraqi civilians.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  13. 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 lol. Go back to Utah whare you cultists come from....

    July 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      So? What do you offer that is full of Love, Peace, and benevolence?

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

      You seem to know a lot about Mormons. Most of what you wrote is true based on what I know from my past experience with them. One thing you left out is that they have twelve "apostles" to lead the church. From what I know about the bible Apostles were men who walked with and were taught by Jesus Himself.. The last Apostle was Paul who was first known as Saul and first came in contact with Jesus on the Demascus road. Every Mormon is required to follow the guidance of the twelve apostles that lead the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Peter

      You are so right, and anyone who doubts these things, look up Mormonism!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  14. Peter

    30% of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim?

    Really? 30%?

    What else do they have wrong?

    July 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Henry

      Trickle Down Economics

      July 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Janine from TX

      What else do they have wrong you ask? Not enough room here for all that!

      July 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  15. Geraldo

    it would be nice if Obama identified what section of Christian he is – Catholic? episcopal? which is it?

    what would be better is if he had a plan to fix medicare, which goes broke in 9 years

    July 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • plaster city

      My guess is he is agnostic.
      And the president alone cant fix health care. We have to get congress to come to a conclusion that the president agrees with and that the courts say is const.itutional. About 1000 different people involved, and many of them in a position to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

      Soooo it's just not that simple.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • D. Hall

      What section??? He is a non-denominational Christian and attends different churches, with Evergreen Chapel at Camp David being his home church.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Peter

      Geraldo wrote: "t would be nice if Obama identified what section of Christian he is – Catholic? episcopal? which is it? "

      Remarkable how many on the right didn't seem upset by Ronald Reagan's religious ambiguity and his not attending church much while President.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  16. Anderson Pooper

    Who cares about that BS. How are they gonna help create jobs and spur economic growth?

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


      July 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  17. al

    I really don't care what religion these folks are. People who think that a candidate being some particular religion means that a candidates is somehow good as a person, a human, are not thinking too straight. I would prefer someone spiritual, not religious. Religion is mans invention. Spirituality comes from within.

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

      Spirituality is "religion lite." It's a meaningless label. If someone tells me they're spiritual, I say, "Oh, so you're wishy washy."

      July 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • yummy

      I agree. This "spiritual" label is thrown around like a rag doll. No one can define it (like no one can define god) so it's meaning is left to the one on the receiving end. It's meaningless.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  18. Sad day...

    Many don't know SCIENCE. How sad.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  19. UIHP

    100% of people shouldn't know the presidents religion. I don't wanna know who he's praying to in his room, I want know what he (or she one day) is going to do for our country. Keep your religions out of our goverment and no more religious fanaticals for president. Religion has been causing nothing but hatred in our country. Live and let live people. I mean it's 2012, when are we going to move on from this? It seems we've only moved backwards.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • 19faye62

      With your theory, we would end up with a Jim Jones, Hitler, Stalin character in the White House. It is very important to know the president's faith. I don't want a president that worships witchcraft, cows, monkeys. Are you kidding?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV



      If a President addressed the budget deficit, encouraged laws that led to a responsible business environment that created jobs and provided assistance for the most needy, why would you care if he prayed to a statue of a golden calf or didn't pray at all?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • John P

      @19faye62: I would only be interested in whether the candidate worshiped or did not worship. I've had it with worshipers and feel we need to keep them out of positions of power in general. Even if there is a God, he would be a major d!cck if he got off on being worshipped. "Worship" is a primitive paradigm that may work for nomadic goat herders but is repugnant and a perversion in civilized society whether it be hollywood worship, sports team worship, political party worship or deity worship.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Pat Scott

    I really do not care at all what religion any politician is – I would rather know if they are truth tellers or liars, honest or not and concerned about the people of this Country or just themselves or their party.

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

      Exactly Pat! I don't care what they religion is as long as they can tell the truth and run the country right.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:23 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.