From Muslim to Mormon, Obama divides the nation by religion too
By Andrew Malcolm
Posted 09:22 AM ET
When Barack Obama was first running for the White House, way back in 2007 when a billion dollars seemed like a lot of money, he presented himself as the Great Uniter. Someone whose freshness, mixed race and background would bridge America's inherent diversities and even end the "bitter, partisan divide" afflicting Washington.
Obama was confident that his charm would work its wonders on the world as well. His outreached hand would lure Iran away from nuclear weapons, seal a policy reset with Russia and put a friendly new face on the United States globally, especially in the troubled Mideast.
As you may have noticed these past 1,998 days, events have not turned out that way. Good thing Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 before he did anything, like launching his war on Libya and lethal drone strikes against names on his personal terrorist death list.
Obama's domestic poll numbers have cratered. At one time or another clearly for political purposes Obama has pitted Americans against each other by class, education, income, union membership, tax status, birth control use, climate beliefs, gender and wealth.
He calls cynically on Republicans to work with him, then in the same speech mocks them as recently as Thursday.
Now, this morning comes a new Gallup Poll revealing that Obama splits Americans by religion.
The national survey, based on more than 88,000 aggregated daily tracking interviews in the first half of 2014, finds Muslims by far approve of Obama's job performance the most, fully 72% approving with only 20% disapproving.
The least Obama-approving religious Americans are Mormons, only 18% of whom approve, while a whopping 78% disapprove.
Obama is also underwater with Protestants, 37% to 58%, and with Roman Catholics, 44% to 51%.
Atheists and Jews barely approve at 54% and 55% respectively, with disapprovals at 38% and 41%. Other non-Christian faiths are 59% approve to 34%.
Religion in America, --"one nation under God" "In God We Trust" -- can be both a sacred and touchy subject. Virtually all presidents, save Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Jefferson, have been at least loosely affiliated with some church. Episcopalians have been the most numerous chief executives, starting with Washington through George H.W. Bush.
But Methodists (G.W. Bush), Presbyterians (Reagan), Unitarians (Taft) and Dutch Reformed (Teddy Roosevelt) have also served. In more modern times Americans elected one Catholic (Kennedy), two Baptists (Carter and Clinton) and two Quakers (Nixon and, before that, Hoover).
White House (Obama visits a mosque.)
Obama describes himself as "Christian."
In his book "The Amateur," Edward Klein quotes the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as describing Obama as basically clueless about Christianity when he first began two decades of attendance at the controversial pastor's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Like many Americans, Obama is an erratic church-goer. He's said that's out of consideration for other worshipers subjected to presidential security measures.
Muslims' affinity for Obama could come in part from the president's familiarity with that religion.
He spent most of his formative childhood years in a Muslim household in Jakarta, capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation. During presidential trips there, Obama spoke fondly of that family life, its foods and rituals.
His first major foreign foray, in fact, was to Cairo in 2009 for an Address to the World of Islam, part of his so-called apology tours.
He's also gone out of his way to court Muslim public opinion, granting exclusive interviews to Arabic TV, bowing to the Saudi king and issuing regular White House statements on special holidays.
The attacks of 9/11, countless acts of subsequent violence around the world by Islamic extremists and the exceptional brutality of Sunni on Shiites in Iraq have cast a bright light on another side of that religion, causing widespread suspicions in social media and some Israeli circles that Obama not-so-secretly leans more Muslim.
The bad news for Obama in the new Gallup Poll is that regardless of voters' faith or absence thereof, the president's approval rates have fallen within every religious subgroup in recent years. They're down about five-to-seven points across the altar.
That drop mirrors the Democrat's approval decline in the general population, now averaging 43% on Gallup's scale. That's down from the 48% average since Aretha Franklin and her huge hat sang him into office in 2009.