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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. BaileeRose

    Religion is pointless.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • J.C.

      -like-

      July 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  2. LBNative

    Romney is Mormon and gave 12 million dollars to the Mormon Church last year. And we are suppose to believe that Romney won't be influenced by Mormonism if he were President?

    July 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  3. doug

    Romney will worship the almighty dollar until the day he dies. At which point "Tis easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus H. Christ

    July 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  4. John P

    I was under the impression that this was important to the electorate and then I find that much of it is unaware, ignorant , indifferent or misinformed I suppose the misinformed may be willfully misinformed and they are probably the most zealous. I hope we see the day when an acknowledged agnostic or deist gets to be president. An atheist would only be the reverse side of the coin from what we've had – believers.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Balanced99

      I'd would be all for an agnostic. I don't believe Obama is a Christian though – just someone who uses religion for political purposes.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Fuster

    Romney is a Mormon. He is required to believe that Native Americans are actually Jews, and African Americans can become white if they stop sinning.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • ErikN

      Both untrue.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Erin

    i wish they were both atheist then religions would be irrelevant in our candidates. I would love and atheist or agnostic President.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • J.C.

      -like- and agree. How refreshing would that be?

      July 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Balanced99

    We can start by believing – with relative certainty – that Peter (who posted he believes Romney is a moron) is a far left liberal.

    Peter, can you explain why you believe Romney is a Moron? I bet I can make a much better case that Obama is a socialist.

    Lastly – religion doesn't specifically concern me. With regards to religion and the POTUS what concerns me now is the same thing as four years ago. The article states that his former pasture was a liability – typical liberal media – blame someone else.

    The point is not about the pasture – but the fact that then candidate and now POTUS Obama was deeply involved with an extremely racist church. I feel comfortable in stating that, like most socialists/communists, Obama is agnostic and that he simply used the church for political purposes – until it no longer suited his needs.

    I have no problem with atheists – your beliefs or lack there of are yours. I do have a problem when their sole purpose seems to be changing the values this country was founded on. If there's a cross on a mountain in memory of our fallen hero's – let it be. Turn your head if need be but SHUT UP!

    As for Obama – his racist, communist policies and actions, if not stopped, will be the final undoing of a once great nation.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • nomormonpresident

      ....and you're calling Obama a bigot? Hmmm....take a loooong look in the mirror you typical mormon....balanced99....You are proof of why mormons CANNOT run the country. You're all hypocrites.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Balanced99,

      The President is not a herbivorous grazing mammal. He has no need for pastures.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yes we were a great nation before we started accumulating pin heads like Balanced99.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • J.C.

      Well I couldn't in good conscience actually call Romney a "Moron" since in truth he has accomplished much and had great success in life. Don't agree with him, not voting for him, but not a "Moron"

      Happily, "Balanced99" is here to make sure our Moron Contingent is, as always, over-represented on these boards. So thanks for playing.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • kmccabe08

      @balanced99
      Where to begin. Obama is not a socialist. Go back and look at his voting record and the laws he has signed into action. Here is a non-partisan website that displays what actions he has taken on bills brought to him: http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/9490/. As you can see from the record he has been a very business friendly President.
      Secondly, I do not really care about the religious beliefs of our leaders AS LONG AS those beliefs remain separate from their legislative priorities. Unfortunately the line between separation of church and state has been crossed in the last decade. We are seeing more laws proposed based on politicians religious beliefs in the past ten years than any other time period since our founding in 1776. The previous hearings in the house on birth control and infringement on religious freedom are a perfect example of that. The house invited leaders from major Judeo-Christian religions to say how the mandate would infringe upon their religious freedoms. Public and private hospitals are now merging for budgetary reasons and the public hospitals are now having to cater to the private religious hospitals policies all in the sake of freedom of religion. The right to religions' freedom of religion is infringing upon my choice to not follow a specific religious doctrine. For my entire life I have been able to choose whether or not I go to church. I have been able to choose to not go to a religiously affiliated hospital if I do not want to. I have been able to choose not to go to a private religious school. But now these choices are slowly being taken away from me because of another person's freedom to practice their religion wherever they want to, regardless of whether or not the majority disapproves.
      In the 1960s Republican's made a big deal about JFK being elected President mainly because they believed he would force his Catholic beliefs on the nation. He was elected anyways and none of his legislation was religious in nature. I wonder where that sentiment is now? Is religion being shoved down my throat "okay" as long as it is the "right" religion?

      July 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  8. Fabiola

    I don't like none of these two candidates in part because of that. God is not religion, believing in God and truly loving God, Jesuscrist's father is to believe what the Holy bible says and follow the 10 commandments. Obama unfortunately is approving things that God would disapprove, leading a Nation to go against him... =/ so Im not voting for him at all. Romney doesn't seem to be a person who we can trust either, he's not being transparent and honest. I pray to God we are given better options before the November elections.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • D

      The president needs to run the country, not God. Citizens can be religious, agnostic or atheist and the country is made of citizens.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  9. bluetail75

    yes i know their faiths...BO is muslim and MR is mormom (and if you don't believe BO is muslim, you are a bigger fool than they are).

    July 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • nomormonpresident

      no bluetail75...you are the biggest fool for believing that your current President is Muslim. Do you REALLY believe he could have kept that a secret while he was being vetted for office????? If you are that confused than you need to blame your entire government, including the GOP. Get a brian...if you can...

      July 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • DR Robbins

      Another conspiracy theorist. You're the fool!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • SAM

      I really don't care even if he is a Muslim Obama/Biden 2012

      July 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  10. joe111

    Obama and Romney are very, very far from true Biblical Christianity.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • plaster city

      joe,
      How far? this far? t h i s f a r ? T H I S F A R ?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • ME II

      Sure, but who isn't?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • CCD

      One could argue they are very much steeped in it: Prideful liars who promote themselves.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • the fox

      For our country's sake, I certainly hope that's true.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • lou

      not far enough

      July 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  11. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I haven't seen evidence that either of them has a navel. That's far more important than whatever they profess to believe.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • joe111

      In your opinion, that is...

      July 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Tom,

      embrace the rise of our machine overlords.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  12. Sara

    So I think from this article, we can conclude Republicans are ignorant idiots? Good, I thought so.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Balanced99

      What a stupid comment. Typical liberal – no need to look at facts. Just blind partisan arrogance.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  13. felipphi ruiz

    The doctrine they confess does not matter, they use their religiuos beliefs only to gain votes, or not? the Jesus's disciples involved in politic and economic issues and being richs? no! the gospel details their deeds as example, so, the candidate are materialistic rather than espiritual men. If they belong to this world they follow the world desire, o no?.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. thisismadness

    and peter is a saint?

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

      That's why they call him St Peter, yes.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  15. Reality

    For those who are unaware of BO and MR's religions, some added information:

    STOP AND READ CAREFULLY !!!

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in the angel Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion/choice however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting bloc in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.
    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      Your first sentence proves that you're an ...
      You obviously have noting of good report to offer.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • daveyoung

      Romney is a Christian. Barack is a magic carpet rider of the worst kind.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • CCD

      While I agree in the heinous attack on human life that is abortion, the way you write this is close to insanity.

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

      I will edit that: While I agree with you that abortion is a heinous attack on human life, the way you write this is close to insanity.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • max

      Just remember...Crime went down due to legalized abortion. No children with zero lives and like magic, 18 years later crime went down 40%. The Jebus lovers tend to over look little things like that, for obvious reasons. Morality, what a load.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Woah

      STOP AND READ CAREFULLY!

      No one cares what you think.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • CCD

      Max: So ending a human life is justified because you believe it resulted in less crime? That's rich...

      July 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • joe111

      @daveyoung: Romney is by no means a Christian if he claims he is a Mormon. Mormons are not Christian. Mormonism and Christianity are opposites.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Reality,

      give your bogus 78 million 'immoral majority' a rest. This is not a meaningful statistic and you pulled it out of your backside. The number is significantly less than this when you factor the following:
      1. People who have died
      2. Men who were not informed
      3. Women who had more than one
      4. Your 1 million / year is arbitrary (It was around 800k in 1974 peak at about 1,4M in 1989 and then dropped back to 800k in 1995 where it remains.)

      Statistically almost half of your so call 'immoral majority' would have voted for John McCain in 2008.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Reality

      From the Guttmacher Insti-tute- August 2011

      "In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.[2]"

      i.e. making the number of Immoral Majority members more like 100 million in 2012. (age range 16- 79) (life expectancy in 2012 is ~ 79)

      More from Guttmacher:

      "• Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.["

      And if half of these aborting "mothers and fathers" have had two abortions, the Immoral Majority would still be a huge voting bloc i.e. ~50 million, enough votes to give any presidential candidate the differential votes needed considering many voters vote straight Democratic or Republican tickets no matter what the issues are.

      ( "There are roughly 55 million registered Republicans. There are roughly 72 million Democrats. And there are roughly 42 million registered independents. )

      Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_registered_republican_voters_are_there_in_America#ixzz1n7ShWVn4

      July 27, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  16. CCD

    Useless article. Tells us nothing of significance.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  17. Hmmm

    Seems to me that your religion plays a very large role in who you are. that is where you get a lot of your morals from and a lot of the things you will hold as truths. I am not a fan of any religion. I consider myself agnostic. It is hard for me to hold ANY religion above the other because they are all pretty silly when you get down to the root of their beliefs. Christian, Mormon, Muslim, it does not matter. Organized religion is the source of a lot of suffering throughout history.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • OOO

      Looks like you didn't get a lot of your morals from religion :-). Give yourself some credit.

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

      So, religion plays a large role in who you are and then you say that religion is silly. Guess you think most people are silly then?

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

      Well most of us really are quite silly. Religion gives people structure and a safe feeling. Makes them feel like they have the answer to the big test they have to take down the road. A lot of what religion does is get you to fall into line with their way of thinking and anyone outside of that is wrong. To each their own. I do not know either way. Is there a God? Is there no God? We might have ideas or beliefs, but no one knows the facts. So to dedicate your life to something that at best is a maybe, that is a bit silly. We all do it in our own way though 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • CCD

      Hmmm: One can argue that believing humans with cognitive reasoning abilities developed from apes is quite silly. The existence of a God can be explained through the idea of why beauty exists in the world, and why we exist, which humans by themselves cannot explain. No?

      July 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @CCD

      They could believe that, as long as they ignore the misrepresentation of developing from "apes". You would also need to discount the massive amounts of evidence to back up evolution through natural selection. And the arguments brought up rely only upon an appeal to emotion.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, ghouls, goblins or guns

      CCD – No! Our inability to explain anything does not mean that "some god did it" is a credible answer! That bullshit might have worked when mankind was living in caves and a couple of thousand years ago when some desert dwellers wrote a crappy piece of fiction now called The Babble, but we now know better on many, many fronts. Time for religion to go the way of astrology!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Hmmm

      I think one of my biggest problems with the God theory is my logic system. Sure it is flawed in it's many ways, but to discount a lot of really sound science and evidence that evolution happened and is still happening is really hard for me. There are and always will be things out there we do not understand or have a hard time explaining. I mean really, how many early religions were based around the occurance of natural disasters and or acts of nature? Can you prove to me your prayer helped you? No. Can I disprove your prayer helped you? No. So it is all a gamble 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  18. watash

    What does it matter?

    July 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • phearis

      Yeah, that was my question too. I don't care what religion they are as long as one of them can fix the mess the GOP caused.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Peter

    I do believe that Romney is a MORON!

    July 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • CCD

      stay classless my friend

      July 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • phearis

      Well, yes, Rmoney is but he's also a Mormon.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  20. thisismadness

    I watch the new to look at the hot reporters...thats why i know nothing of the election

    July 26, 2012 at 3:43 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.