Liberals often criticized President George W. Bush for being too overtly Christian and for allowing personal faith to infiltrate his policies. On the flip side, President Obama is often derided for his lackluster church attendance and an alleged failure to uphold Christian ideals. Considering Obama’s less overt discussion about his personal beliefs, it seems many Americans simply don’t know which religion he embraces. In fact, a new Gallup poll shows that more than four in 10 can’t name the president’s chosen faith.
When asked, “Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?,” 44 percent of respondents chose “No/Don’t know.” This is astounding, considering that the media have reiterated his beliefs countless times over the past four years.
Despite Obama’s own claims and the medias’ coverage of his religious preference, conservative critics would likely argue that actions speak louder than words. The president’s choice to embrace gay marriage, mandate birth control (even for religious employers), support abortion rights and champion other liberal ideals, they would argue, colors peoples’ perceptions and paints a confusing picture regarding his faith.
In the end, there is an argument to be made that people expect the president to act in a way that corroborates his personal ideals. However, more progressive Christians could counter that the president is doing just that (also, they wouldn’t disagree with many of his stances). Rather than governing based on his personal convictions, he may be considering the overarching fact that a U.S. president represents all people and not only those with whom he agrees.
Still, the notion that 44 percent of the nation remains confused about his religion creates some fascinating questions. Below, see the breakdown:
Despite profound confusion, 34 percent of Americans were able to correctly name Obama’s stated faith — Christianity. However, an additional 11 percent reported that he was Muslim, eight percent claimed that he has no religious affiliation at all and another two percent assumed that he is a Catholic (surprising considering his ongoing spat with the Catholic Church).
As always, the partisan breakdown on personal knowledge about Obama’s faith is interesting. Not surprisingly, Democrats are more able to accurately ascertain the president’s faith. Considering that they are more likely to be engaged with his views, this isn’t a bombshell factoid. However, some of the other differences between Republicans, Democrats and Independents are noteworthy. Gallup explains:
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be able to name a religious faith for Obama, and are more likely to say Obama is a Christian. Just 3% of Democrats say Obama is a Muslim.
Republicans are less likely than Democrats to say what Obama’s faith is and are more likely to say Obama is a Muslim. It is unclear whether the 18% of Republicans who say Obama is a Muslim do so because they truly believe this is his religion, or because it is a politically charged idea.
Independents are generally more akin to Republicans than to Democrats in their views of Obama’s religion.
This information follows a Public Policy Polling study from earlier this year that found that the majority of likely Republican voters in Mississippi believe Obama is a Muslim.