1 in 5 in U.S. believe Obama is Muslim
The public's confusion about U.S. President Barak Obama's religion persists, with a growing segment of the public believing Obama is Muslim, according to a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
In 2008 and 2009, only 11% of the public claimed Obama was Muslim. That number had climbed to 18% by August of this year. The survey collected data from 3003 adults living in the continental United States.
"Beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him," the report said. "The view that Obama is Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers."
In fact, the disparity between supporters and opponents is enormous.
More than 6 in 10 (67%) of those who disapprove of the President's job performance believe Obama is Muslim. While among those who approve of the job the President is doing, less than 3 in 10 (27%) say he is Muslim. Those unsure about Obama's religion were split on his job performance.
A plurality of those surveyed (43%) have no idea what the President's religion is.
The report found that survey respondents correlated Christianity with positive assessments of the President. While only 34% of the general public believes Obama is a Christian, 62% of those who approve of the President believe he is a Christian.
Those who believe Obama practices Islam, meanwhile, say they learned this through media sources, especially television, and even the President's own words.
ABC News blamed an erroneous 2007 Fox & Friends report as being one of the roots of the notion that Obama is Muslim. The Fox report cited Insight magazine's claim that Obama was educated as a Muslim in Indonesia in his childhood.
CNN quotes prominent evangelical Franklin Graham who said Obama's own background is responsible for rumors of a Muslim affliation.
During his campaign for president in 2007, Obama acknowledged attending a Muslim school as a child, but he denied it had any influence on his religious formation.
While the President has been quiet about his faith and has not joined any single church during his tenure in office, he and his family worship in Christian congregations.
"While conservative Christians have plenty of reasons to argue with his theology, there is no public evidence that he is anything other than what he says he is — a liberal Christian who takes a non-literal, modernist approach to scripture and some doctrines," Terry Mattingly wrote at GetReligion.org.
The Pew report also revealed the peculiar American preference for leaders who are religious but who do not rely too heavily on religion for guidance in public policy.
In 2004, Pew found that 64% of the public believed George W. Bush relied on religion "a fair amount" or "a great deal". More than half the public thought Bush's reliance on religion was "about right".
Pew's latest survey shows that the public perceives Obama relying far less on religion than Bush did. Just 41% think Obama relies "a fair amount" or "a great deal" on religion, while 43% believes that Obama does not rely much on religion for guidance.
"Despite increasing uncertainty about Obama's religion, the public generally says he handles his religious beliefs appropriately," the report determined.
Pew's ironic findings come against the backdrop of Obama's controversial comments supporting the legality of a proposed Muslim community center near the New York City site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but questioning "the wisdom of" placing the center near the site.