WASHINGTON — The White House insisted on Thursday that President Barack Obama is a Christian who prays daily as it looked to tamp down growing doubts among Americans about the president’s religion.
White House spokesman Bill Burton made the remarks hours after a poll showed that nearly one in five people, or 18 per cent, said they think Obama is Muslim. That was up from 11 per cent who said so in March 2009. The survey also showed that just 34 per cent said Obama is Christian, down from 48 per cent who said so last year. The largest share of people, 43 per cent, said they don’t know his religion.
As Obama left for a vacation, Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One that most Americans care more about the economy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “they are not reading a lot of news about what religion the president is.”
Burton added, “The president is obviously a Christian. He prays everyday.”
The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and its affiliated Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, is based on interviews conducted before the controversy over whether Muslims should be permitted to construct a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Obama has said he believes Muslims have the right to build an Islamic centre there, though he’s also said he won’t take a position on whether they should actually build it.
In a separate poll by Time magazine/ABT SRBI conducted Monday and Tuesday — after Obama’s comments about the mosque — 24 per cent said they think he is Muslim, 47 per cent said they think he is Christian and 24 per cent didn’t know or didn’t respond.
In addition, 61 per cent opposed building the Muslim centre near the Trade Center site and 26 per cent said they favour it.