Tuesday, March 13, 2012


A lot of people in the commentariat get really defensive when they're told that many right-wingers believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. Public Policy Polling found that belief to be rife among Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama (PDF), and now here comes NBC's Chuck Todd to tell us not to pay any attention:

Well, there's a couple of things. One, it's an automatic -- it's a robo-survey, so you get an auto phone call and you press a button to answer the question, one if he's a Christian, two if he's a Muslim. But you introduce it -- the way the question was asked, I think it just was designed to get a higher number. Because there are some Republicans who may not believe the President -- who may believe the President is a -- may not believe he's a Muslim, but like saying it because it's a way to attack him. It's sort of a way to needle him.

And we get the same thing from David Graham of The Atlantic:

Perhaps they're responding to the stimulus of a pollster asking them.... PPP uses automated telephone polling in which respondents answer by pushing buttons on their phones. Julian Sanchez posits that many of these responses are fed by ideology: the people who purport to hold them are really just doing so for political reasons. For example, he says, most liberals who indulged in Bush bashing didn't literally think he was a fascist. By the same token, the slight majority of Mississippi Republicans who mashed that button for "Muslim" may not really think Obama is an adherent of Islam: They just staunchly dislike him and view his opinions as so alien to theirs that they'll say so.

So that's it? It's just angry button-mashing?

Tell that to Russell Lewis of NPR, who went to a presidential forum in Birmingham, Alabama, yesterday and ran into these folks:

[Mitt Romney's] religion didn't come up among the dozen attendees I spoke with. Instead, for people like Judy Sellers, it was Obama's faith that was an issue.

"I really don't think that a nation that falls on Muslim leadership, potentially, is going to be a nation that's going to survive," she said.

Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. It's an issue that came up four years ago when he ran for president.

And it's not the only topic that made a return appearance last night. John Gentile of Crossville, Tenn., still doesn't believe Obama is allowed to be president because his father was born in Kenya.

"I just don't like the directions that he's headed in, and personally I don't think he qualifies to be president under the 'natural born citizen.' In the Constitution it states that you have to have two parents that were born in the United States, so that there's no alternative allegiance by any member of the family," Gentile said.

The Constitution actually doesn't say that.

Go listen to the story at the link above. Then tell me these people are just venting in a non-specific way. Sorry -- they aren't. You can hear it in their voices.

These opinions are as sincere and thought-out as those of the other two Alabama voters heard in the piece. One is voting for Santorum because, as she says, "He wants to bring God into everything, and to me and my Christianity, that's what I needed to hear. You know, that's what we need"; the other says, "Everybody in America needs to pray, and just do what God has you to do as far as voting in the election."

And really, that's a big reason why these people think Obama's a Muslim: they hate Obama, and they're theocrats. Since they believe we now have an evil government, and a good government would be controlled by the Christian God, Obama must not be a Christian by definition. The exact nature of his belief system is something they've picked up from the rumor mill, as is his alleged nationality, but there's no way they could possibly believe he's a real Christian or American no matter what.

And that point of view is not something that was generated by any robo-poll.


(Graham link via Memeorandum.)


Tom Hilton said...

Since they believe we now have an evil government, and a good government would be controlled by the Christian God, Obama must not be a Christian by definition.

This. Exactly.

BH said...

Well said, Steve. One of the few advantages I have from living in rural north Texas is that I see, hear and deal with members of this demographic every day. (Hell, I'm kin to some, for that matter.) You'll hear the "Muslim" and/or "furriner" BS pretty regularly, and it's nothing to do with a polling method. Todd and Graham are clueless.

JoyousMN said...

I might turn your conclusion around. Since they don't believe Obama is a Christian, and Democratics, in general are godless heathens, then this government must be evil.

I think it works that way too.

Danp said...

I do think these polls make it easier to believe that the debate over Obama's religion is 1) credible and 2) important. I don't doubt that a significant number of people believe Obama's a foreign-born Muslim, but with no credible facts to support this opinion, the real question is what is driving it? And what sustains it? It's not exactly like new facts emerge every day.