The number of Americans who say President Obama is a Muslim has nearly doubled since March 2009, according to a new poll from Pew out today. The poll finds that 18% of Americans say the president — who, it should be said for the record, is a practicing Christian — is a Muslim. That’s up from 11% who said the same thing in March of last year.
At the same time, a new poll from Time magazine shows a widespread distrust of Islam among Americans, and an overwhelming opposition to the Cordoba House project in Manhattan. The Time poll also found that 24% of Americans say Obama is a Muslim.
No group is more convinced of the president’s Muslim faith than conservative Republicans. The Pew poll found 34% of them say Obama is a Muslim, which is an increase from 18% in the March 2009 survey. The number is not that much different from Republicans overall — 31% of all Republicans surveyed by Pew said Obama practices Islam, and 24% of “moderate and liberal” members of the GOP said the same thing.
But the mistaken view of Obama’s faith is up among Democrats, too. Ten percent of Democrats surveyed said Obama is a Muslim, up from 7% in March 2009. The breakdown of those numbers: 12 percent of “conservative and moderate” Democrats say Obama is Muslim (up from 9% last year) and 6% of liberal Democrats do (up from 5%).
The number of Independents who say Obama is a Muslim has also nearly doubled. Back in March, 2009, 10% of Independents had the view; today the number is 18%.
The Pew poll finds that the less you like Obama, the more you’re likely to call him a Muslim. “The view that Obama is a Muslim is highest among his political opponents,” the pollster writes. “31% of Republicans and 30% of those who disapprove of his job performance express this view.”
It’s worth noting that the Pew poll was taken before Obama’s recent remarks about the Cordoba House project — and even before the issue had come to dominate the national debate. Pew surveyed 3,003 Americans from July 21 to Aug. 5. The margin of error on the poll is 2.5%.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the rise in belief that Obama is a Muslim in the Pew poll comes with a general rise in confusion about Obama’s faith overall. The poll found that 43% of the total sample said they “don’t know” what Obama’s religion is, which is up from 34% who had the same response in March of last year.
Again, Republicans are the most confused. Thirty-nine percent of those sampled said they don’t know what Obama’s faith is, which is an increase from 28% last year. Interestingly, the biggest jump came among moderate and liberal Republicans — in March ’09, 25% said they didn’t know what religion Obama practiced. Now, 44% can’t name his faith.
That number is in line with the number of independents who say that can’t identify Obama’s faith. Thirty-eight percent said last year that they didn’t know what religion Obama practiced — now, 44% say the same thing.
Democrats are similarly confused. Forty-one percent of them said they didn’t know what religion Obama is, compared to 32% last year.
As noted, the rising view that Obama is a Muslim seems to be separate from the public frustration over the plan to build a Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. But the new Time poll, taken in the midst of the debate over Cordoba, shows a reticence toward Islam among Americans.
Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President — slightly higher than the 24% who mistakenly believe that the current occupant of the Oval Office is himself a Muslim.
As shown in the Pew poll, many Americans can’t name Obama’s faith one way or the other — less than half, 47%, of respondents to the Time poll said Obama was a Christian.
As for the Cordoba House project, opposition remains very high among the American public. Sixty-one percent of respondents to the poll said they oppose building the cultural center, and “more than 70%” said they agree with the argument that building it “would be an insult to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Time surveyed 1,002 Americans Aug. 16-17.