No, 1 in 5 Americans Does Not Really Think Obama Is Jewish — That Poll You Read Was an Error

There’s been no shortage of confusion surrounding President Barack Obama’s personal faith. While he has repeatedly claimed that he’s a Christian, for some reason, doubts and confusion ensue. Since his rise to prominence in 2007, polls and studies have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly confused when it comes to their ability to note what, exactly, Obama believes.

While the president has been accused many times of being a Muslim, a recent poll raised eyebrows when it found that one in five Americans believe that Obama is — Jewish. Despite past studies that found virtually zero percent of the nation concurring with such a notion, many outlets still ran with the story. Now, the record is being set straight.

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement in the White House briefing room following a briefing on Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama returned early from a campaign trip to Florida and has canceled several other campaign events to monitor the storm. Credit: Getty Images

Before we explain, let’s look at past data. Back in June, a Gallup poll showed that, after four years of Obama affirming his Christian faith, four in 10 Americans still couldn’t accurately name his religious adherence. When asked, “Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?,” 44 percent of respondents chose “No/Don’t know.” At the time, 34 percent said that they believed him to be Christian of some sort, with 11 percent choosing “Muslim.”

A new poll, this time conducted by GfK on behalf of the Associated Press, raised suspicion when it found that more Americans actually believe Obama is Jewish than Muslim. The Jewish Forward reports:

According to the poll, which was conducted by GfK for the Associated Press on Friday, 18 percent of respondents said Obama is Jewish, while 10 percent said he is Muslim.

Despite the president’s repeated self-identification as a Christian, only a third of respondents to this year’s survey correctly identified him as such, while slightly more, 35 percent, said he had ‘no religion’.

The survey also showed that some 39 percent of Americans believed Obama was not born in the United States, while only 49 percent answered that he was.

But — here’s the problem. The bizarre finding was the result of an input error on the part of GfK, it seems. The Times of Israel, clearly suspicious of the results when they emerged, contacted the Associated Press to clarify the situation.

US President Barack Obama speaks to the press in the briefing room of the White House October 29, 2012 in Washington after being briefed in the Situation Room on the status of Hurricane Sandy as it approaches the Atlantic coast of the United States.Credit: AFP/Getty Images

“Widely reported survey features incorrectly entered data, purportedly showing more Americans think the president is Jewish (18%) than Muslim (10%). The actual finding: 2 of 1,071 respondents thought Obama was Jewish,” the Times reports.

Photo Credit: GfK/AP

The Times explains, in detail:

The finding, which never made it into an AP news story, comes from an Associated Press Racial Attitudes Survey, conducted by pollsters GfK, and released earlier this week. It surveyed 1,071 adults between August 30 and September 11. […]

Rather than 18%, the actual figure for Americans who think Obama is Jewish is 0%, AP confirmed. But that zero was erroneously omitted, skewing all the figures from that line in the column on down. Thus, the correct figure for Americans who think Obama is Muslim is 18%, not 10% as erroneously tabulated; 10% think he has “some other religion”; 2% think he has no religion; 35% don’t know, and 2% refused to answer.

Here are the updated and corrected numbers:

Photo Credit: GfK/AP

While the error was clearly pointed out — an overarching theme continues to be progressed: Americans still have confusion surrounding Obama’s religious views. In this poll, 65 percent failed to note the proper religious category. However, among the same pool of respondents, 67 percent were able to accurately answer that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

This information follows a Public Policy Polling study from earlier this year that found that the majority of likely Republican voters in Mississippi believe that Obama is a Muslim.

Full disclosure: Billy Hallowell was a research associate with Roper Public Affairs & Media, part of GfK, from 2007-2008.