Americans still aren't confident about which particular faith Mitt Romney and Barack Obama practice. Nearly half (46 percent) of the public can't identify Mitt as a Mormon, and only 38 percent correctly said the president is a Christian. Those stats headline the first new Public Religion Research Institute/RNS Religion News Survey poll of the 2012 election cycle.
Here's what we found most interesting about the poll. Below is a PRRI/RNS chart that places a few of the leading GOP presidential contenders (Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann) on a scale alongside Presidents Obama and Bush to scale the religious similarity of the candidates with the beliefs of those who were surveyed. A question posed to participants was this: "Do you think that [Insert Name] has religious beliefs that are very similar, somewhat similar, somewhat different, or very different than your own religious beliefs?" Here's the methodology (only the religious similarities/differences chart is shown below):
In order to compare Obama with current Republican candidates vying for the GOP nomination, who are much less familiar to the general public, we created a scale to measure perceptions of similarities on both religious beliefs and political views. We computed an average score that runs from +2 (very similar religious beliefs or political views) to -2 (very different religious beliefs or political views). Respondents who are not familiar with the political figure or their religious beliefs or political views receive a score of 0.