Rise in Seeing Obama as Muslim

A new poll finds many Americans perceive their president as a Muslim, even though he's not. Nearly twice as many have no idea what his religion is.

Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 14:58

Obama bows down to Saudi king
Obama bows down to Saudi king
Israel news photo: screenshot from YouTube

A new poll has found that many Americans perceive their president as a Muslim, even though he's not. Even more are just plain confused about which religion it is that President Barack Obama observes, according to the findings released Thursday.

The Pew Research Center and its affiliate, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted the survey before the White House controversy erupted over construction of a 13-story mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in New York. Grassroots organizations across the country are continuing to organize demonstrations and protests against the project, including one slated for this coming Sunday in New York. 

Nearly one-fifth of all respondents -- 18 percent of those polled -- said they believe Obama's religion is Islam, up from 11 percent just one year ago. 

Obama said at a White House ifta dinner breaking the daily fast in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last Friday night that he supports the right of the organizers to build a mosque on the site. He backpedaled a day later, however, over whether the project should proceed.

Almost half of the respondents – 43 percent – said they don't know the president's religion, an increase from 34 percent in 2009. Only 34 percent answered the question correctly, saying that the president is a Christian.

Sixty percent of those who said that Obama is a Muslim also said they got their information from the media, with 16 percent saying their information came from television. Another 11 percent said they got their information from the president's words and behavior.

Barack Hussein Obama, born to a Kenyan Muslim father and a mother from Kansas, lived in Muslim-majority Indonesia from the age of six to 10, with his mother and an Indonesian stepfather. Early in his presidency, he bowed down to King Abdullah during his first encounter with the Saudi Arabian monarch, a move seen by many as an unspoken Islamic deference to the foreign king's authority.

The poll, supervised by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, was conducted July 21 – August 5 through land line and cellular phone interviews with 3,003 randomly chosen adults in the United States. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.