Even though President Obama has been the occupant of the White House for four years and he was slammed intensely by the press and Republicans for months in 2008 because of his connection to a black pastor some considered too extreme—Rev. Jeremiah Wright—only half of Americans in a Pew Center poll correctly identified the president as Christian.
Of the nearly 3,000 people surveyed, 17 percent of registered voters say that Obama is Muslim—close to the 19 percent who said that in a poll conducted two years ago—while 49 percent say he is Christian and 31 percent say they do not know Obama’s religion.
In fact, a higher percentage of those polled correctly identified Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s religion as Mormon—60 percent.
But a closer look at the numbers suggests that it may be more willful ignorance—meaning ignorance with a purpose—than just plain obliviousness at play in the numbers who say he is Muslim. The numbers who say he is a Muslim are much higher among conservative Republicans, at 34 percent, suggesting that it is those who disagree most vehemently with the president’s politics who are more likely to say he is a Muslim and that they are uncomfortable with his religion (only 26 percent of those who describe him as a Muslim say they are comfortable with his religious beliefs).
Those who say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s religion are more likely to be white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants, and also atheists and agnostics.
Still, Romney’s religion is less of a pressing issue to voters than other aspects of his life. A Pew survey released earlier in the week found that just 16 percent of voters said they wanted to hear more about Romney’s religious beliefs. Far more wanted to hear more about Romney’s record as governor (41 percent), his federal income tax returns (36 percent) and his record as chief executive of Bain Capital (35 percent).