The White House emphasized Thursday that President Obama is a Christian and prays every day, in response to a new poll that showed more people now believe he is a Muslim.
White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to the president's vacation that the president's Christianity is something that is important to him, but is not a "topic of conversation" every day.
"The president is obviously a — is Christian," he said. "He prays every day. He communicates with his religious adviser every single day. There's a group of pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. And his faith is very important to him, but it’s not something that is a topic of conversation every single day."
A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday showed that the number of people who believe Obama is a Muslim jumped 7 percentage points to 18 percent since March 2009 and that the number of people who think he is Christian fell from 49 percent to 34 percent within the same time frame.
Pew completed the survey in early August, before Obama backed the rights of a Muslim group to build an Islamic center, which includes a mosque, two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. The growing perception of Obama as a Muslim, however, could have an effect on the debate.
But the White House said that the president is concerned with more important issues as president.
"He has spoken about his faith extensively in the past. You can bet that he'll talk about his faith again," Burton said. "You could always play the 'would-of, could-of, should-of,' but the president's top priority here isn't making sure that Americans know what a devout Christian he is, it's making sure that we're getting the economy on track and we're creating jobs in this country."
Even though 60 percent of people who believe Obama is a Muslim said they got the idea from the media and 11 percent said they came to believe it from his words and actions, Burton said the public is keyed into Obama's spiritual views.
"I just think people are focused on other issues and not paying all that much attention to exactly what the president does with his spirituality," he said. "But as you all know and have covered extensively, he is Christian and his faith is very important to him."