Blogs > Cliopatria > Why Do More Americans Think Obama is a Muslim?

Oct 6, 2010 9:38 am

Why Do More Americans Think Obama is a Muslim?

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Food for Thought

Pew Research Center

A substantial and growing number of Americans say that Barack Obama is a Muslim, while the proportion saying he is a Christian has declined. More than a year and a half into his presidency, a plurality of the public says they do not know what religion Obama follows.

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama's religion is. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama's recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.

The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers. Roughly a third of conservative Republicans (34%) say Obama is a Muslim, as do 30% of those who disapprove of Obama's job performance. But even among many of his supporters and allies, less than half now say Obama is a Christian. Among Democrats, for instance, 46% say Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009.

Rick Shenkman

Twice today I was asked by columnists why the number of people who believe he's a Muslim might be growing. Eleanor Clift and Clarence Page both were interested in the subject.

Here's what I told them. One explanation is simply that the debate about Obama being a Muslim has largely been one-sided since he became president. Since he moved into the White House he's no longer devoting resources to knock down rumors and half-truths as he did during the campaign, when he created a website to address these issues. So the rumors, which have continued non-stop, gain more and more currency.

In addition, the environment in which we are living is making us more susceptible to untruths and rumors. The more anxious we become about the future (and we are very anxious right now) the more susceptible millions of us are to myths that make sense of the world. The myth that Obama is a Muslim helps define him as The Other. That is an appealing myth to people who wonder what the hell has gone wrong with this country. In anxious times we often seek to make sense of the world by dividing it into Them and Us. It's a natural tribal instinct. By placing Obama in The Other camp we can"explain" why our position in the world seems to be declining.

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More Comments:

Jo Lowry - 9/13/2010

Recently I read (although as a teacher I had come to the same conclusion many years ago) that by the age of 6 most children (genetics and training) have much of their personality traits, etc. already formed.

Why do many think Obama is a Muslim, because all of his early training was in predominately Muslim countries by a Muslim father/later Muslim step-father. Regardless to his 'religion' today, those years have a serious bearing on his attitudes and philosophy. Do I think he bowed to the King in Saudi Arabia....darned tooting. I'm not even sure he realized it until the flap over it....early training! Does he not understand Middle America...why should training/no experience...

No matter how you want to slice it, he has very little real American experience. That's not to blame him, it is to call to account an electorate that didn't do due diligence.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 8/26/2010

His father was a Muslim. His name is Muslim. He has been less than friendly toward Israel. He is trying to make friends with Iran. He favors building a mosque at Ground Zero. He wants Muslim terrorists captured on the battlefield to have trials with public defenders and U.S. rights of citizenship. Why shouldn't a large number of people think he is a Muslim?It is not an irrational guess.

Sharon Sweeney - 8/23/2010

Why are more Americans believing that President Obama is a Muslim? His opponents have done a great job of providing misinformation and downright lies to their own political believers. It takes time for those lies to spread via personal e-mails. Many people are ignorant of research sites, believe anything their "friends" send, and some don't want to take time to fact check. President Obama's opponents know this. I receive e-mails from opponents several times a week, and no matter what facts I state in reply, they accuse me of getting personal, which I do not do. People do not like to be wrong so no matter how much truth I provide, they get angy. Further, some e-mails claim that President Obama admits to being Muslim in his books. Opponents have taken statements out of context, and e-mailers have said that they haven't read the books yet because they claim the statements are straight from the books, they believe them to be true. Go figure. We definitely need "critical thinking" programs in our schools. -- Sharon Sweeney

Nico Silva - 8/23/2010

It`s my believe that a man shouldn`t be judged by his religion. The Constitution does not mention that the president should belong to any particular religion. In my opinion, a president without religion links would be better. Some members of the christian coalition that elected George W Bush acted like terrorists, most prostitutes and criminals in South America are Roman Catholics.

John D. Beatty - 8/23/2010

1) What difference does it make?

2) What real evidence does anyone have of anyone's religious proclivity?

dave - 8/23/2010

sheeple follow the lead of the media-therefore a hand full of people are able to plant a seed after which many others will supply the manure----

John Arthur - 8/23/2010

Although not being an American. I would like to say that in my opinion you know people by the company they keep and what they do not what they say.

In my opinion he is a Muslim.