November 18, 2010

Only 51% of Americans say Obama's religious beliefs are different from their own.

I'd say that's an amazingly low number. And yet Politico frets that this will make it hard for him to "reconnect" with us. We live in a pluralistic society. What does it matter how close a politician's religious beliefs are to our own? But assuming it does, it's impressive that so many American's feel that they more or less share Obama's religious faith (whatever it is):
The post-election survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute offers a glimpse into the challenge facing Obama as he tries to reconnect with those voters who have soured on him: 51 percent say his religious beliefs are different while 40 percent say he shares similar views.

And there’s a strong overlap between those who think he holds different religious views and those who disapprove of him. Only a fifth of Democrats say his religious beliefs are different from their own while 78 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents say so.
This is more of a test of whether we generally like Obama or not. What does "similar" even mean? If you like him and you believe in God and think he probably does too, you'll say his beliefs are similar. If you don't like him and think he's not a sufficiently avid churchgoer you'll say he's not.


AST said...

I'm part of the group who doesn't believe that Obama is God, so I guess that puts me in that 51%.

Geoff Matthews said...

Given the religiosity (or lack thereof) that is prevalent among democrats, does this mean that they think that he is irreligious?

Sprezzatura said...

"What does "similar" even mean?"

Maybe being similar means being "not Muslim."

Or, "not Mormon."

Geoff Matthews said...

I'd have thought that he identified as mainstream christian.

Though Reverend Wright certainly wasn't what white America would define as mainstream.

But this will be sold as more of the 'secret muslim' theory.

Anonymous said...

You must be pretty well-off financially, Professor. I don't know how otherwise to explain the fact that you think this is blogworthy. The economic condition of the country continues to deteriorate, and fast, and seeing government invade our lives more and more (I'm thinking TSA genital exams here) just adds insult to injury for everyday Americans.

The bottom line: What Obama's religious beliefs are not important. Nobody gives a flying fuck. He could believe he is the reincarnation of Shiva and it wouldn't affect the pervasive dissatisfaction among Americans one way or another.

Lucien said...

Imagine being a parishoner at a church attended by the President & retinue.

One week you go to church, mingle with your friends, sit in your usual spot, & go home.

The next week traffic is jammed, you have to go through metal detectors to get in, whole sections are roped off for "Very Important People", and you have to fight through a throng of reporters to get home.

What considerate person would subject others to that kind of hassle on a regular basis just so tht the press could say he or she attended church, "on a regular basis"?

More on topic, if you're the type of person who thinks their religious views are unique, won't it be easier to assume any President's views differ from yours & if you think your views are relatively normal, won't you be more inclined to think the PResidnet's are, too?

Ann Althouse said...

@Julius I said "what does it matter?" I'm commenting on the survey and they way it's presented. Why do you not see your attitude as similar to mine?

traditionalguy said...

Obama is at best a surface Christian. His world view is old fashioned Roman Empire Paganism. He believes that he is Emperor of the Empire while we all watch in awe at this delusion until he steers us into another ditch that only an Emperor could justify doing to the serfs. Palin on the other hand walks the walk as a Christian who functions as salt the Nation preserving it from corruption of New (really the old ) Age Paganism.

garage mahal said...

Sarah Palin is a Christian? Shut up.

SteveR said...

I believe most Americans have no real idea what his beliefs are anf answered one way or the other to not look ignorant or just to go along with an overall feeling about him in general.

Does he believe in the risen Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, sanctification by grace, etc.?

Anonymous said...


Oh yes on a closer reading I see that. I was thrown off a little by your lead-in and post title reporting the survey. I thought you meant to emphasize the results of the survey more than you probably did.

Trooper York said...

Wow. You mean 49% of Americans are Muslim?

That's a lot higher than I thought. Who'd a thunk it?

dbp said...

The 40% who say Obama shares their views probably fall mostly into two groups:

1. Serious Christians who think Obama is a serious Christian too.

2. Secular people who may be nominally be Christian, but don't really concern themselves much with religion and they think Obama is like them.

Only one of these groups is correct of course.

The Republican 78% are probably mostly serious Christians who think Obama is either a wacky type of Christian, pretty much secular or secretly Muslim.

Michael said...

A friend of mine in Dallas sits a few feet away from G.W. Bush and his wife. They are, my friend says, very nice people. Normal people worshiping at the same church Sunday after Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim.

It is why he calls himself by his Muslim name - which his Muslim father gave him.

He is the President of the United States and he can call himself by his Christian name if he chose to do so.

But he doesn't. He chooses Hussein.

We all make choices in life.

He chooses Hussein.

Larry J said...

I don't think Obama is Muslim or any other religion. Being religious means acknowledging something greater than yourself exists. I don't think Obama believes anything is greater than himself.

Gabriel Hanna said...

There are almost no politicians openly espousing religious beliefs similar to mine.

I don't vote for people because they are like me. I shouldn't be in charge of things, and someone who was very like me shouldn't be in charge of things either. Not only that, almost nobody agrees with me on how things should be done.

So when I vote, no matter how I vote, I have to vote for people unlike me who do things I wouldn't do.

I generally vote for what I consider the least worst alternative. This is the strategy followed by about 100% of the population.

coketown said...

I need a visual aid to show the distribution of this poll's findings.

Meanwhile, as a Christian libertarian/conservative type, my sense is that strategists put way too much importance in religious identification. Obama is functionally an atheist, meaning whatever his personal beliefs might be, his rhetoric and actions are entirely irreligious. That's a good thing, I think. And while I go to a church that has a congregation that's high;y active in missionary outreach, I can't name a single person who would let a candidate's faith influence their vote. It's about evenly split between social justice liberals and social conservatives. Obama could come out as a Unitarian universalist and my progressive Christian friends would still vote for him.

The one thing that will piss off liberal Christian types, though, is if word gets around that Obama's faith is a product of PR calculations.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@New "Hussein" Ham

Barack is actually a Jewish name, it is another form of "Baruch" in a different Semitic language. The most famous one was the scribe of Jeremiah.

Crack a Bible sometime, you might learn something.

My name, Gabriel, is Hebrew. But I'm not Jewish. Why do I use a Jewish name then? Huh? Huh? I don't know, maybe because my momma gave it to me and it's on my birth certificate and it would be too much work to go change it when I'm used to it.

Trooper York said...

But Gabriel, at least you have a birth certificate. Just sayn'

coketown said...

@ Trooper York:

Oh snap! Gabriel walked right into that one.

Trooper York said...

Truther humor....always funny.

ricpic said...

Didn't the hissing viper say that the muzzie call to prayer is the prettiest sound he's ever heard?

G. Hanna - Baruch is hebrew for blessed. Barack is the name of Mohammed's horse.

Fen said...

Only 51% of Americans say Obama's religious beliefs are different from their own.

"Black Liberation Theology will only accept the love of a God that participates in the destruction of the white enemy" - Dr Cone, in support of Obama's "religion" at Trinity Church.

So no. I don't think Obama and I worship the same God.

Gabriel Hanna said...


Musa = Moses
Barack = Baruch
Isa = Jesus

It's pretty simple.

EnigmatiCore said...

I think it is more likely that the set of people who like him and think he shares their religious views are mostly non-believers.

Fr Martin Fox said...

President Obama says he is a Christian and I believe him. The actual complaint is that he isn't a very good one. We've had lots of presidents who weren't particularly good Christians; whether Mr. Obama rates better or worse...?

On another note...

Thank you, Professor, for using the preposition "from" with different, which is correct, but is widely disregarded.

garage mahal said...

So no. I don't think Obama and I worship the same God.

Well that's a relief.

Unknown said...

The Zero worships himself and Uncle Saul.

As I said earlier, I don't buy the survey for a second.

Revenant said...

Obama claims to be a Protestant Christian.

Percentage of Americans who are not Protestant Christians: 49.7%

Percentage of Americans who think Barack Obama has religious beliefs different from their own: 51 +/- 3%.

Summary: the percentage of Americans claiming that Obama's religious beliefs differ from their own is statistically equal to the percentage of Americans whose religious beliefs actually do differ significantly from the ones Obama claims to hold.

I think we're done here.

Shanna said...

Is it me, or is it weird that they keep doing survey's on this?

Who freaking cares? It's just another way of ignoring the very real policy differences people have with his administration.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm insulted, Ann, that even now you want to ignore what I've pointed out, repeatedly, in favor of this charade:

The man's a NewAger, brought to us courtesy of Oprah. He's "The One".

This Christian/Muslim bullshit is a deflection from the obvious. Stop playing the fool or pretending I am - he's a NewAger.

The Crack Emcee said...

There isn't a media outlet in America that hasn't hinted at it but, as always, no one's willing to admit the obvious:

He's a NewAger.

The Crack Emcee said...

Bush fought his way into office as a normal politician, a decent guy, not any sort of hero or god.

--Ann Alhouse

What "religion" pushes that idea?

We all know which one you were referring to - why won't you, at least, admit it?

The Crack Emcee said...

Or - at last - admit it?

Mick said...

Maybe I can remind you of Federalist #68 "Professor".

"Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?"

If he is a Muslim, then that's just the icing on the cake. He was born of a foreign father, and raised by Communists and foreigners. He is certainly not a Natural Born Citizen (no matter WHERE he was born), and certainly not a "creature of our own". That's where this whole thing starts, and ends. Barack Obama is the putative President for a reason, and that is his lack of attchment and allegiance to America. You and your fellow intellectualized cripples (and Blacks) have allowed the death of America to walk through the front door of the White House. It's happening right befoe our eyes, as the barbarians are within the gates.

William said...

I think my religious beliefs are different than just about every American President. But it is only in the case of Obama where this variance is perceived as prejudice on my part.

Anonymous said...

Obama could come out as a Unitarian universalist and my progressive Christian friends would still vote for him.

What if he were Southern Baptist? COGIC? Mormon? Then would they vote for him? UU is not exactly radical or daring.

Calypso Facto said...

Politico said: "Squirrel!"

Why do the Washington insiders keep suggesting the President's unpopularity is a result of poor "messaging" or discongruent religious beliefs (which, as Revenant points out nicely, really aren't)?

It's the policies, Stupid! (to paraphrase)

bagoh20 said...

Which religious belief - the white half's or the black half's. He's not just special - he's complex. Too complex for just one religion. No religion can contain him.

bagoh20 said...


It's a new age now, and we are all NewAgers. Stop fighting what you cannot defeat or escape. Come in, join us. It's warm, full of light and we love you. Come in friend, welcome. It will all be behind you soon. Submit, join us.

We have really cool crystals with Obama's head laser etched inside...$19.95

The Crack Emcee said...


You may think I'm joking, but I experienced a physical shudder from just reading that.

It didn't use to be this way. It didn't start until I began reading my ex's NewAge books, to discover what the motivation for her actions were, and one day, as I found myself getting deep into it, I involuntarily screamed, "NO!" and - while kind of kicking myself backwards - threw the book across the room.

Nothing's ever been the same since those days.

former law student said...

Obama comes from the social justice wing of Christianity, not the fundamentalist.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't like him and think he's not a sufficiently avid churchgoer you'll say he's not."

It's about his stated beliefs, not the frequency of his churchgoing. Chicago Sun-Times religion editor Cathleen Falsani quoted Obama as follows: "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."

That's universalism.