Americans Muddled on Obama's Religion

. (Image credit: Walter G Arce /

Only about a third of Americans know what religion Barack Obama practices, a new survey finds.

In a new poll by Gallup, 34 percent of Americans correctly pegged the president's faith as Christian. Eleven percent said he is Muslim, and 44 percent said they didn't know. (Another 8 percent said he is not religious, and 2 percent believed he is Catholic, a Christian faith.)

The results follow on the heels of another Gallup analysis that found 57 percent of Americans know that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is a Mormon. About 17 percent of people in that poll said they would not vote for a Mormon for president.

Obama has attended services at several Christian churches in Washington, D.C. Before winning the presidency, he and his family attended the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Knowledge of Obama's religion is stronger among Democrats, 52 percent of whom correctly said he is a Christian. Only 24 percent of Republicans said the same. Republicans were also more likely to say that Obama is a Muslim, with 18 percent saying so compared with only 3 percent of Democrats.

"It is unclear whether the 18 percent of Republicans who say Obama is a Muslim do so because they truly believe that this is his religion, or because they want to say something potentially negative about him," Gallup reported Friday (June 22).

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama's faith was a point of controversy, given controversial statements about America by Trinity United pastor Jeremiah Wright. In 2008, ABC News broadcast excerpts of Wright's sermons from 2001 and 2003 in which he criticized America, at one point saying "God d*** America" for past abuses such as Japanese internment during World War II and racial segregation.

Nevertheless, the controversy does not seem to have highlighted the president's faith for many Americans.

Obama has also faced conspiracy theories about his American citizenship, with public figures such as Donald Trump claiming that the president was not born in the United States. Obama released his Hawaiian long-form birth certificate in April 2011. A Gallup poll taken shortly thereafter found that this release increased the number of Americans certain he was born in the U.S., though only 47 percent were willing to say he was "definitely born in the U.S." as of May of that year.

The new results are based on a June telephone poll of 1,004 American adults in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., weighted to represent the national demographic makeup. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.