The Muslim Rumor That Just Won't Die

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 22 2012 5:25 PM

The Muslim Rumor That Just Won't Die

Ever since he began running for president in 2007, Barack Obama has been dogged by rumors that he's secretly a Muslim. Whether it's his exotic name and background, the color of his skin, or (most likely) some combination of the two, the Muslim lie just doesn't seem to go away.

Each time it has begun to fade from public discussion, the Muslim rumor has cropped up again, like it did last year when real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who was publicly weighing a presidential bid at the time, insisted he had evidence showing Obama wasn't born in the United States (and that his birth certificate might show that he's Muslim).

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In response, the president eventually took the extraordinary step of releasing his long form birth certificate, which showed he was born in Hawaii as claimed. But a new Gallup poll finds that even now, a healthy chunk of Americans believe the rumor:

Just 34% of Americans correctly say U.S. President Barack Obama is a Christian, while 44% say they don't know Obama's religion and 11% say he is a Muslim.

Obama is a Christian and has labeled himself as such as in his writings and interviews, and while living in Chicago he attended the Trinity United Church of Christ. Since moving into the White House, Obama has attended several different Christian churches.

Americans are indeed more likely to say Obama is a Christian -- mostly a generic "Christian" or "Protestant" -- than to say he identifies with any other religion. In addition to those who name a specific religion or don't offer a guess, 8% say he does not have a religious affiliation.

Americans are more likely to know Mitt Romney's religion than Obama's religion, with most Americans correctly saying Romney is a Mormon and a smaller 33% saying they don't know.

At this point, one has to suspect that some of the poll respondents claiming Obama is a Muslim are just doing so to be provocative and express their anger with the president. The Muslim rumor has been so thoroughly debunked -- even in conservative outlets -- that anyone out there still clinging to it probably knows better, and just wants to hurl rhetorical grenades at a White House that has polarized this country like no other.

Matt Taylor is a reporter living in Brooklyn. He was the political correspondent for the National Memo and a staff reporter at his hometown newspaper, The East Hampton Star. He's a contributor to Newsweek/The Daily Beast. You can reach him on Twitter @matthewt_ny