By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new poll by the Pew Research Center has found that after nearly two years in office, the majority of Americans are more confused than ever about what religion President Barack Obama is following.
Pew reports that according to their latest survey, nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009. The number of people who believe he’s a Christian has declined from 48 percent last year to 34 percent today. A total of 43 percent of respondents said they don’t know what religion the president is practicing.
What makes the poll even more interesting is that it was conducted before the president’s controversial statements in support of the construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center – a project that is opposed by an overwhelming number of Americans.
The survey also polled Americans’ perception of Obama’s religion and their opinion of his job performance and found that beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him.
“Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while a majority of those who think he is a Christian approve of the job Obama is doing,” the poll found. “Those who are unsure about Obama’s religion are about evenly divided in their views of his performance.”
As far as how much religion should factor into politics, the survey found about half of the public (52%) saying they believe churches should keep out of politics, with 43 percent saying they should be allowed to express their views on social and political questions.
However, “despite the growing opposition to political involvement on the part of churches, most people continue to say they want political leaders who are religious,” the poll reports. “About six-in-ten (61%) agree that it is important that members of Congress have strong religious beliefs. And as in previous surveys, a slight plurality (37%) says that in general there has been too little expression of religious faith and prayer by political leaders.”
The poll was conducted between July 21 and Aug. 5 among 3,003 respondents.
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