President Obama’s Faith Challenge
After nearly a full term in office, fewer than half (49%) of voters correctly identify Obama as Christian. Around 1-in-5 (17%) voters continue to incorrectly say that Obama is a Muslim, up from 12% in 2008. Most strikingly, 31% of voters say they are unsure of his religious beliefs. Other questions confirm this identification problem: only 38% of voters report that Obama’s religious beliefs are similar to their own, despite his membership in the United Church of Christ, one of America’s oldest Christian denominations. This dearth of knowledge about Obama’s faith could have an impact on his ability to sway the nearly 6-in-10 independent voters who care about presidential candidates’ religious beliefs.
Perceiving Obama’s religious beliefs to be different from one’s own is a significant independent predictor of holding unfavorably views of Obama, even holding other relevant characteristics constant. Americans who say Obama holds somewhat or very different religious beliefs than their own have, on average, a 72% probability of viewing the President unfavorably, while those who said his religious beliefs were somewhat or very similar had on average just a 13% probability of viewing the President unfavorably.