Friday, July 31, 2009


By now you've probably seen the results of a new Research 2000/Daily Kos poll that shows widespread recognition of the fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii ... except in certain groups. As Steve Benen notes,

Only 4% of Democrats are confused about the president's place of birth. The number is slightly higher among independents, 8% of whom got it wrong. Among Republicans, though, 28% -- more than one in four -- believe President Obama was not born in the United States.

... In the Northeast, West, and Midwest, the overwhelming majorities realize the president is a native-born American. But notice the South -- only 47% got it right and 30% are unsure.

Politico's Glenn Thrush adds another bit of demographic analysis -- but I'm not sure even this isolates the problem completely:

Birther sentiment was strongest in the South and among the 60-plus crowd - presumably because seniors can't log on to the Internet and rely on rumor, word of mouth and right-wing talk radio.

Leaving aside the question of whether the Internet is the solution or the problem here (I think, in part, it's both), seniors aren't the only age group with a disproportionate share of birthers. Check these numbers out (reading across: age, yes, no, not sure):

18-29 88 4 8
30-44 72 14 14
45-59 82 8 10
60+ 69 17 14

So 4% of under-30s are birthers, as are 8% of (roughly speaking) baby boomers, and a much higher 17% of 60+ers. But what's that 14% of the 30-44 crowd doing in there? And the additional 14% who aren't sure? Why does birtherism go down among the non-elderly, then go back up in that age range?

That's the group I think of as Reagan Youth.

Here's how you can tell if you're in the Reagan Youth demographic: if you were young and impressionable in 1986, when the Challenger blew up -- if, in particular, you sat in a classroom and watched that twinkly-eyed old man on TV reassuring you (as he reassured you so many times, particularly with things he knew that just weren't so) -- you're in the Reagan Generation.

The 30-44 crowd was born between 1964-65 and 1978-79 -- which means most were just the right age to remember the ol' tale-spinner on TV from childhood. That's when far too many of them learned that myths, not facts, are what count.

Far more of those folks believe in the birther fairytale than do people slightly older or slightly younger. I'm not surprised.

No comments: