Growing Number of Americans Falsely Believe President Obama is Muslim

Aug 19, 2010 8:11am

A new poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicates that the number of Americans who erroneously believe President Obama is a Muslim is growing.

In March 2009, the percentage was 11 percent. Today, it's 18 percent.

The percentage of those asserting that the president is a Christian — which he is — has gone down in that time, from 48% in March 2009 to 34% today.

A plurality of Americans — 43% — say they don't know what religion the president is.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama’s “Fight the Smears” website wrote: "Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack’s religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone’s faith to denigrate them politically, that’s an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception."

The poll indicates that groups who have shown the most willingness to believe the wrong assertion that the president is a Muslim include conservative Republicans — 34% of whom believe the president is Muslim. Eighteen percent of independents say the president is a Muslim, up from 10% in March 2009.

But even among the president's allies, the numbers are shifting. In March 2009, 55% of Democrats said the president is a Christian, which he is. That number is now 46%. African-Americans, who voted for President Obama overwhelmingly, have also shown a similar shift. In March 2009, 36% of African-Americans said they didn't know the president's religion; that number is now 46%. Self-described liberal Democrats who don't know what religion the president is shifted from 23% to 31%.

Says Pew: "When asked how they learned about Obama’s religion in an open-ended question, 60% of those who say Obama is a Muslim cite the media. Among specific media sources, television (at 16%) is mentioned most frequently. About one-in-ten (11%) of those who say Obama is a Muslim say they learned of this through Obama’s own words and behavior."

In 2007, the falsehood that then-Sen. Obama was educated in a madrassa was aired on Fox & Friends, which repeated a report from Insight magazine claiming that a rival Democrat’s campaign was exploring his Muslim “background.” Mr. Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was Muslim, though the president has described his father as secular.

The poll was taken between July 21 and August 5, before the controversy over the proposed Islamic Center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero.

- Jake Tapper

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