A new US national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has found that a substantial and growing number of Americans think that that Barack Obama is a Muslim, while the proportion knowing he is a Christian has declined.
More than a year and a half into his presidency, a plurality of the public says they do not know what religion Obama follows.
According to the survey, nearly one-in-five Americans (18 per cent) now say Obama is a Muslim—an increase from 11 per cent in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34 per cent) say Obama is a Christian, a sharp decrease from 48 per cent in 2009. Fully 43 per cent say they do not know what Obama's religion is.
The survey was completed in early August 2010, before President Obama's recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.
The belief that Obama is a Muslim has increased most sharply among Republicans (up 14 points since 2009), especially conservative Republicans (up 16 points). But the number of independents who say Obama is a Muslim has also increased significantly (up eight points). There has been little change in the number of Democrats who say Obama is a Muslim, but fewer Democrats today say he is a Christian (down nine points since 2009).
The new poll, conducted between 21 July and 5 August among 3,003 respondents, also examines the link between Americans' perception of Obama's religion and their opinion of his job performance, and covers views on the President's approach to religion, including the influence of his religious beliefs on policy decisions.
In addition, the survey explores Americans' attitudes toward churches' involvement in politics and the influence of religion on American life and government, and looks at religion's impact on voting preferences for the forthcoming 2010 congressional races.
The report, including a summary and topline questionnaire, is accessible on the Forum's new web feature, Religion & Politics 2010 (http://features.pewforum.org/politics/).
The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on significant aspects of religion and public life in the US and around the world.
As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, the Pew Forum does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.