-In 2010, Pew’s annual religion and politics survey found that roughly one-third of the public believed Obama was Christian, about 1-in-5 thought he was Muslim and a plurality 45% said they did not know the President’s religion -These numbers represent a significant change since 2009 the last time Pew asked this question which I will come to in a minute
-There were significant differences between religious groups about Obama’s faith. -Nearly 3-in-10 white evangelicals report that Obama is Muslim, only 27% say he is Christian -White Catholics and white mainline Protestants closely mirror the general population -Among the unaffiliated significantly fewer believe Obama is Muslim at 13% and only 5% of Black Protestants believe Obama is Muslim
-The political divisions on this question are stark as one might expect -Republican are three times as likely as Democrats to believe Obama is Muslim and twenty points less likely to believe he is Christian -Independents closely mirror the general public.
During the campaign and for at least the first six months of his presidency views about Obama’s faith were stable. Nearly half of the public reported correctly that he was Christian, 1-in-10 Americans said he was Muslim, and roughly 4-in-10 said they did not know. -In 2010 these numbers shifted significantly. The percent who believe Obama is Muslim increased from 11% to 18%, an increase of 7 points. This shift received the bulk of the media coverage, however, what is equally fascinating is the drop in those who said he was Christian, from a slim majority shortly before the election to just about one-third in the summer of last year, a 17 point drop. This raises atwo questions: Why did this happen and What does this mean for Obama and his presidency?
-If we look at the pattern of personal favorability of Obama we see that it closely tracks views of his religion, in this case whether or not he is Christian In March 56% had a favorable view of candidate Obama and 47% believed he was Christian -Right before the election, his favorable increased significantly to 66% and the percent who said he was Christian also increased although by a less substantial margin -In 2010, both Obama’s personal favorability and the perception that he is Christian dropped dramatically, a 20 point drop in favorability was accompanied by a 14-point drop in perceptions that he is Christian -Ideally it would be great if we had a few more data points, but these data nonetheless suggest a relationship between being viewing Obama as a Christian and having a favorable impression of him
-Here we see the relationship between perceptions of his faith and views about his job performance. Interestingly, believing Obama is Christian seems to be as strongly associated with negative evaluations of his job performance as viewing him as Christian is to positive evaluations. 62% of those who believe Obama is Christian approve of the job he is doing as President while 67% of those who say he is Muslim disapprove.
-In order to control for possible confounding factors like party affiliation, ideology and religious identity and behavior I ran a multivariate model predicting disapproval of Obama’s job as President -Taking account of basic demographic and political covariates this analysis shows that viewing Obama as Muslim and viewing him as Christian are both predictive of views about his job performance. And in fact
-Here I converted the betas into predicted probabilities and averaged the scores by each category. Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim have a 72% probability of disapproving of his job performance. Americans who believe he is Christian have a 30% chance of disapproving. -From a purely political standpoint the large drop in the number of Americans who view him as Christian matters more than the modest increase in those who view him as Muslim
-In our 2010 post-election survey we asked respondents to gauge how different or similar Obama’s religious beliefs were to their own. -We found that a slim majority of Americans said Obama’s religious beliefs were very or somewhat different than their own, and about 4-in-10 said that they were very or somewhat similar. -More than one-third of Americans said Obama’s religious beliefs were very different.
-We also saw significant differences by trusted media source -Americans who most trust public television and the broadcast networks for their news and information closely resemble the general public. -Viewers who most trust CNN are somewhat more likely to say Obama has similar religious beliefs to their own -Fox viewers really stand out here. Neatly 8-in-10 Americans who say that Fox News is their most trusted news source say Obama’s religious beliefs are different from their own including 60% who say they are very different
-We see this same effect among Republicans, suggesting that this effect is not simply an artifact of partisan differences on trusted news sources. -Among Republicans who say they trust Fox news most 69% say Obama’s religious beliefs are very different. Among Republicans who trust other sources, only 45% say Obama’s religious beliefs are very different
-Again, in order to control for possible confounding factors I ran a multivariate logistic regression model predicting an unfavorable view of Obama. -The results show that viewing Obama’s religious beliefs as different from your own is the strongest predictor of having an unfavorable view of him, followed closely by trusting Fox News and Democratic party affiliation
-As we saw earlier though there are significant variations among religious subgroups. -Here I ran the same model among five different religious attendance groups, from the most frequently attending to the least. The coefficients in the chart are the mean predicted probabilities for each religious attendance category. -Americans who attend more than once a week and who say Obama’s religious beliefs are different, have an 81% probability of viewing him unfavorably. -Among Americans who seldom attend and who say Obama’s religious beliefs are different have a 59% probability of viewing him favorable -And among those who never attend and say his religious beliefs are different have just a 36% probability of having an unfavorable view of Obama
Faith in the President? How Public Perception of Barack Obama's Faith Shape Views of Him and his Presidency
Daniel Cox, Public Religion Research Institute Rob Suls, Pew Research Center American Association of Public Opinion Research May 12-15, 2011 Faith in the President?: How Public Perception of Barack Obama’s Faith Shape Views of Him and his Presidency www.publicreligion.org www.pewresearch.org
Perceptions about President Obama’s Faith & its Relationship to his Favorability & Job Approval PART I. PERCEPTION OF OBAMA’S RELIGIOUS IDENTITY PART II. VIEWS ABOUT OBAMA’S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Data Sources <ul><li>Public Religion Research Institute, Post-election American Values Survey, November 2010. </li></ul><ul><li>Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Religion & Politics Survey, August 2010. </li></ul><ul><li>Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Political Survey, March 2009, October 2008, March 2008. </li></ul>
Two Measures of Obama’s Faith <ul><li>Obama’s Religious Identity (Pew) : Now, thinking about Barack Obama’s religious beliefs… do you happen to know what Barack Obama’s religion is? Is he Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, or something else? </li></ul><ul><li>Obama’s Religious Beliefs (PRRI) : From what you know, do you think Barack Obama has religious beliefs that are very similar, somewhat similar, somewhat different or very different than your own religious beliefs? </li></ul>
CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, DON’T KNOW? RELATIONSHIP TO JOB APPROVAL Part I. Obama’s Religious Identity
Perception of Obama’s Religion in 2010 Source: Pew Research Center, Religion & Politics Survey, August 2010 (N=3,003)
Predicting Obama’s Favorability L ogistic Regression Predicting Unfavorable View of President Obama B S.E. P-value Odds Ratio Obama's Religious Beliefs Different 2.242 0.181 < 0.001 9.4 Fox News Most Trusted Network (Ref. All Others) 2.021 0.236 < 0.001 7.5 Republican (Ref. Independent) 0.861 0.211 < 0.001 2.4 Male (Ref. Women) 0.498 0.168 0.003 1.6 Conservative (Ref. Moderates) 0.457 0.191 0.017 1.6 Evangelical (Ref. All Others) 0.071 0.198 0.719 1.1 Age (Linear) 0.013 0.005 0.007 1.01 Educational Attainment (Linear) 0.0001 0.052 0.998 1.00 Religious Attendance (Linear) -0.18 0.056 0.001 0.84 Liberal (Ref. Moderate) -0.897 0.267 0.001 0.41 Black (Ref. All Others) -1.454 0.467 0.002 0.23 Democrat (Ref. Independents) -1.587 0.223 < 0.001 0.21 Intercept -2.164 .488 < 0.001 0.16
Views of Obama’s Religious Beliefs More Important Predicting Favorability Among Highly Religious
Conclusions <ul><li>A Word on Causality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>None of the analysis here makes any claim about the direction of the relationship between perception of Obama’s religion and his political and personal evaluations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is likely that favorability is affecting views about Obama’s religion just as views about his religion are affecting his favorability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need for panel data </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Differential Effects Among Religious Groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The analysis shows that Obama’s religious beliefs are closely associated with personal favorability but matter more for some Americans and less for others, (i.e. white mainline Protestants, white evangelicals, frequent attenders) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Christian vs. Muslim Identity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Being viewed as a Christian has nearly as large a positive impact as being viewed as Muslim has a negative impact; these effects found even among Non-Christians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying Obama’s religion may be about ‘message sending’ providing a way for respondents to express positive or negative evaluations of the President (Langer & Moynihan 2010) </li></ul></ul>
For more information about these surveys: http://people-press.org/2010/08/19/growing-number-of-americans-say-obama-is-a-muslim/ http://www.publicreligion.org/research/published/?id=428 www.publicreligion.org www.pewresearch.org