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Byron York: Why are Americans Confused About Obama’s Religion?

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In 1985, Barack Obama had just arrived in Chicago for his new job as a community organizer when he headed to Smitty’s Barbershop, a tiny storefront on the South Side. As Smitty cut his hair, Obama listened to the men in the shop talk politics and racial grievance. When the barber finished, he handed Obama a mirror and said, “Haircuts ten dollars. What’s your name, anyway?”

“Barack.”

“Barack, huh,” Smitty responded. “You a Muslim?”

“Grandfather was,” Obama said, according to his memoir Dreams From My Father.

Smitty’s question, which Obama didn’t exactly answer, prefigured a controversy that continues to this day…

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Byron Yorkyork writes: Fresh from a controversy over his views on evolution, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is now involved in a controversy over his views, or lack of them, on President Obama’s religion. On Saturday, two Washington Post reporters asked Walker, in the nation’s capital for a governor’s meeting, whether Obama is a Christian. Walker said he didn’t know.

Informed by the reporters that Obama is in fact a Christian, Walker replied, “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” protesting that the president’s religion is not a topic of great interest to voters. “I would defy you to come to Wisconsin. You could ask 100 people, and not one of them would say that this is a significant issue,” Walker told the Post.

“In August, 2010, a Pew poll made news when it found that 18 percent of those surveyed believed Obama is a Muslim. But just as notably, 43 percent of respondents in that survey told Pew they didn’t know Obama’s religion. Among those who said they didn’t know were 41 percent of Democrats.”

Nevertheless, the story created at least a minor explosion in the political press, and Democrats quickly used it to attack a Republican who has recently risen to the top tier of the GOP 2016 presidential field.

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But when it comes to confusion, or wrong information, about Obama’s religion, Scott Walker is far from alone. Polls have long shown many Americans know little about the president’s faith.

“One notable suggestion in the Pew survey was that in Obama’s first couple of years in office, as Americans became more familiar with him as president, they became less sure of his religious faith. In March 2009, shortly after Obama entered the White House, 34 percent said they did not know his religion, while 48 percent identified him as a Christian.”

In June, 2012, Gallup asked, “Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?” Forty-four percent said they did not know, while 36 percent said he is a Christian, 11 percent said he is a Muslim, and eight percent said he has no religion. The “don’t know” group included 36 percent of Democrats. (A larger number of Republicans, 47 percent, said they didn’t know Obama’s religion, as did 46 percent of independents.)

“By August 2010, the number of Americans who said they did not know Obama’s religion had grown to 43 percent, while the number who identified him as Christian fell to 34 percent. The trend was true not just of the president’s political opponents but of his supporters as well.”

In August, 2010, a Pew poll made news when it found that 18 percent of those surveyed believed Obama is a Muslim. But just as notably, 43 percent of respondents in that survey told Pew they didn’t know Obama’s religion. Among those who said they didn’t know were 41 percent of Democrats.

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One notable suggestion in the Pew survey was that in Obama’s first couple of years in office, as Americans became more familiar with him as president, they became less sure of his religious faith. In March 2009, shortly after Obama entered the White House, 34 percent said they did not know his religion, while 48 percent identified him as a Christian. By August 2010, the number of Americans who said they did not know Obama’s religion had grown to 43 percent, while the number who identified him as Christian fell to 34 percent. The trend was true not just of the president’s political opponents but of his supporters as well. “Even among Democrats, fewer than half (46 percent) now identify his religion as Christian, down from 55 percent last year,” Pew wrote in 2010.

In June 2012, Pew asked the question again and found that 36 percent — still more than one-third of Americans — did not know Obama’s faith, while 45 percent identified him as a Christian. (The poll, taken during the 2012 presidential campaign, found that more people — 51 percent — correctly identified Mitt Romney as a Mormon than the 45 percent who said Obama is a Christian.)

The polls are anywhere from two to four years old. There hasn’t been much research on the topic recently, so it’s possible views have changed in one direction or the other.

Whenever the issue pops up, Obama’s most ardent supporters are quick to blame conservative media for misperceptions about Obama’s religion. But it’s possible something in Obama’s public presentation of himself has also created confusion among a significant number of Americans about his religion. The fact is, Obama’s religious roots and development have always been a complicated story. In 2010, after the Pew poll came out, I wrote about the causes of public confusion about Obama and faith, particularly the belief that he is a Muslim…(read more)

WashingtonExaminer.com

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4 Comments on “Byron York: Why are Americans Confused About Obama’s Religion?”

  1. mateo107 says:

    if 49% didn’t know Mitt Romney is Mormon then the obvious problem here is that half the country are morons.

    • The Butcher says:

      Re: uninformed public (morons) I can’t disagree. Most people can’t even name the vice president, and are tuned out. However, Mitt was a candidate, in the national spotlight for less than a year, during campaign season, working against a disinformation-breeding GOP-hating press corps dedicated to protecting and promoting his opponent, Barack Obama. President Obama on the other hand, has been president of the united states for six years, and is the most famous and overexposed human being on the face of the earth.

      The more telling statistic: the longer Obama’s been in the public eye, the longer he’s been president, the LESS sure people are — Republicans and Democrats alike — of his religious affiliation. Obama’s own behavior sends mixed signals.

      I recall seeing an interview with Obama’s Chicago pastor Reverend Wright. At one point Rev Wright was asked “is Obama a Christian?” Rev Wright thought about it, and answered “I don’t know”. If the pastor of the church you attended for decades – and close friend and associate – doesn’t know whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, or atheist, then it’s probably unknowable by anybody in public life.

      Most understand that Obama attended Wright’s church in Chicago in order to be seen and accepted as a fellow Christian in Chicago’s influential black power structure, for political reasons (as politicians often do) and that otherwise, there’s no evidence that Obama is a Christian, or has close ties to any religious faith. Secular progressives generally aren’t interested even the appearance of being religious, except when it’s politically beneficial.

  2. […] The Butcher In 1985, Barack Obama had just arrived in Chicago for his new job as a community organizer when he […]


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