*Despite Obama’s attendance in church and his repeated public statements about his Christian faith, the number of Americans who believe he is actually Muslim is on the rise.

A new Pew Research Center poll has found that 20 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that President Barack Obama practices Islam, reports the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who correctly identify Obama as a Christian has fallen by nearly half from a year ago, to 34 percent.

The Post said the poll found one third of conservative Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim, nearly double the figure who said so last year. The number of independent voters with the same mistaken belief has also risen, by eight points, to 18 percent, the Post said.

The poll was taken before Obama waded into this current heated national debate over plans for a mosque and interfaith centers just blocks from the New York site of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Obama said Friday that US principles protecting freedom of religion should apply equally to all faiths, and that Muslims should be able to worship freely in the United States. But a day later he added that his comments were not intended to pass judgment on the wisdom of building a mosque near Ground Zero.

Of those who said they believe Obama is Muslim, 60 percent said they had learned about his religion from the media. But White House officials told the Post that mistaken impressions about Obama’s faith were the result of “misinformation campaigns” being waged by his opponents.

“While the president has been diligent and personally committed to his own Christian faith, there’s certainly folks who are intent on spreading falsehoods about the president and his values and beliefs,” faith adviser Joshua DuBois said.