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UI Hawkeye Poll: 42 percent of voters can’t identify Obama’s religion
Despite all of the media attention surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s Christian faith, including his connection to the controversial former Pastor Emeritus Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, nearly 42 percent of registered voters nationwide still cannot identify Obama’s religion, a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll shows.
“It’s surprising: Despite all the campaigning and intense media coverage, the percentage of American voters who believe Obama is Muslim has not gone down as much as we might expect since a similar Pew study in June, which found that 12 percent believe he is,” said Hawkeye Poll Director David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
In the national poll of 680 registered voters conducted Oct. 1-11, 8.4 percent of all respondents considered Obama Muslim, and 33.4 percent could not name his religion when asked in an open-ended question to identify it.
One thing has changed since the Pew poll: The percentage of Democrats who mistake Obama’s religion dropped notably, while the percentage of Republicans who do went up. In June, the percentage was equal regardless of party. Now, the Hawkeye Poll shows that 14 percent of Republicans say Obama is Muslim, compared to only 5.5 percent of Democrats and 4.8 percent of independents.
In the Hawkeye Poll, 39 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents did not know Obama’s religion, compared to less than one-quarter of Democrats. Likewise, almost 70 percent of Democrats correctly identified him as Christian, compared just 46.3 percent of Republicans and 57.5 percent of independents.
“That’s a difference of over 20 percentage points between Republicans and Democrats on perceptions of Obama’s Christian religion,” said Hawkeye Poll Co-Director Caroline Tolbert, associate professor of political science at the UI. “Media coverage or online information sources linking Obama to the Muslim religion may be responsible for the misinformation.”
Another possible factor responsible for voters mistaking Obama’s religion may be tied to a voter’s education level, the poll found. Seventy-two percent of those who believe Obama is Muslim have not graduated from college.
Moreover, the poll found that nearly 14 percent of those who identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christian think Obama is a Muslim, compared to 6.6 percent of non-evangelical voters.
The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll is directed by David Redlawsk and co-directed by Caroline Tolbert, associate professors of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the Department of Political Science and is housed at the UI’s Social Science Research Center. The university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost provided funding for the poll.