1/5 Of Americans Still Believe The President Is A Muslim

Twenty percent of Americans still believe that Barack Obama is Muslim. Not only is it wrong, it says something rather disturbing about our country.

The “Obama is a secret Muslim” story has been around virtually from the moment the 2008 Presidential campaign began and, it hasn’t gone away:

The number of Americans who believe — wrongly — that President Obama is a Muslim has increased significantly since his inauguration and now account for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population.

Those results, from a new Pew Research Center survey, were drawn from interviews done before the president’s comments about the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, and they suggest that there could be serious political danger for the White House as the debate continues.

The president’s religion, like his place of birth, has been the subject of Internet-spread rumors and falsehoods since before he began his presidential campaign, and the poll indicates that those rumors have gained currency since Obama took office. The number of people who now correctly identify Obama as a Christian has dropped to 34 percent, down from nearly half when he took office.

White House officials expressed dismay over the poll results. Faith adviser Joshua DuBois blamed “misinformation campaigns” by the president’s 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,” DuBois said.

DuBois said the president’s Christian faith plays an “important part” in his daily life. And he pointed to six speeches on faith that the president has given in which he talked about his beliefs. But Dubois said coverage of Obama’s Christianity has been scant compared with news about the economic crisis, legislative battles and other issues.

Among those who say Obama is a Muslim, 60 percent say they learned about his religion from the media, suggesting that their opinions are fueled by misinformation.

(…)

More than a third of conservative Republicans now say Obama is a Muslim, nearly double the percentage saying so early last year. Independents, too, are now more apt to see the president as a Muslim: Among independents, 18 percent say he is a Muslim, up eight percentage points.

What is perhaps most striking is the fact that the number of people who think the President is Muslim, or don’t think he’s Christian, has changed dramatically, for the worse, since the President entered in office:

What we’re seeing here, I think, is a combination of a two things.

First of all, once a myth becomes embedded in the minds of a certain segment of the public, it is pretty much impossible to convince people they’re wrong regardless of how much evidence there is that contradicts the belief or how illogical the belief might actually be. The birther myth is an excellent example of this phenomenon; just a few weeks ago, we learned that nearly a quarter of Americans still believe the President was not born in the United States despite the massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. At this point, more than two years after the story first became public, no amount of evidence or argument is going to convince that remaining 27% that their belief about the President is wrong. So it goes with the “Obama is Muslim” belief, it’s a meme that’s been around as long as the birther myth and no amount of argument is going to change people’s minds at this point.

Second, the Pew poll establishes fairly clearly that there’s a strong correlation between people’s beliefs about the President’s religion and their opinion about his performance in office:

Beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him. Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while a majority of those who think he is a Christian approve of the job Obama is doing. Those who are unsure about Obama’s religion are about evenly divided in their views of his performance.

It’s not entirely clear why this should be the case. I disapprove of the President’s job performance and I don’t think that the President is Muslim, for example. Then again, I don’t particularly care what the President’s religious beliefs are and, unlike I suspect many Americans, I neither expect not am I very impressed by displays of religious piety by politicians. But, for some group of Americans, quite obviously, opposing the President means that you believe every stupid conspiracy theory about him, like the 22% of Americans who believe that President Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks but choose not to prevent them. There’s no rational reason for people think things like this, they just do.

That last explanation is disturbing on some level, though. If thinking badly of the President makes someone more likely to think he’s a Muslim, then the next logical conclusion is that people think there’s something bad about being a Muslim. Unfortunately, as another poll out today seems to indicate, that seems to be exactly what some Americans think:

Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President

Partly, this may be because most Americans have no personal experience with Muslims and thus are basing their opinions about the religion largely upon what they hear in the media:

9. Do you personally know any Americans who are followers of the Islamic religion?

Yes, know: 37%
No, don’t know: 62%
No answer/Don’t know: 1%

It is, quite honestly, easy to believe dark and conspiratorial things about a group of people when you don’t know anyone who belongs to that group and when Fox News Channel is telling you that they’re coming to destroy your country and your way of life.

In reality it shouldn’t matter what the President’s religion is, as Campbell Brown put quite eloquently in a commentary back in October 2008:

We can find examples of stupid or at least ignorant voters who believe that it’s true and who voted or will vote against Barack Obama solely because they think he’s a “secret Muslim.”It’s a vile smear for two reasons.

The first, of course, is because it’s untrue.

The second reason, though, is more subtle.

In the end, there’s no difference between suggesting Barack Obama is a Muslim and calling into question the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney, or the Catholic faith of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and, before, him, Al Smith, who likely lost the 1928 Presidential Election because of his Catholic faith. Of course, Romney is a Mormon and Kennedy and Smith were Catholic, but the sentiment is exactly the same — those who continue to spread the Obama is a Muslim lie do so on the assumption, if not the hope, that people will excerise religious prejudice toward Obama because they think he’s a Muslim.

It’s religious intolerance, pure and simple. It’s the same form of idiocy demonstrated by a Republican Congressman from Virginia who went insane over exploited like a bigoted demagogue the fact that America’s first Muslim Congressman wanted to take his oath of office on the Koran.

And, it’s a far cry from the wise words of Sage of Monticello:

[I]t does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

By spreading the Obama-is-a-Muslim lie, people are saying  that a person’s religion should disqualify them per se from public office.

Quite honestly, I can’t think of anything more un-American.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Islam, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, Religion, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I’d like to know what fraction of the 1/5th are just f*ing with us.

  2. sam says:
  3. reid says:

    Well done. But I have to question this bit: “22% believe President Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks but choose [sic] not to prevent them.” We know he got a daily briefing that suggested the attacks were coming. He obviously didn’t ignore it knowing it was going to actually happen (I’m sure it was one of many similar reports he gets every day), but if the question is whether he knew about it ahead of time, then it’s not crazy to say “yes”. (And that IS the question, there’s no mention of “chose to not prevent them” that I can see in the article.) It’s an example of a bad poll question. If it was reworded to more strongly imply a conscious decision to let 9/11 happen, I’m sure the results would be be much different. I’m just wary of these “that side’s nuts are just as bad as this side’s nuts” claims.

  4. Red Zone says:

    I don’t believe Obama is anything but an empty suit with no soul.

  5. reid says:

    Oh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 1/5 of the people reading this blog believe it. Certainly a healthy portion of the frequent commenters are in that camp. As jp says, though, most of them may be f*ing with us.

    OT: Is email followup notification broken? Did I miss a memo?

  6. a healthy portion of the frequent commenters are in that camp

    Paging ZRIII…..ZRIII please pick up the white courtesy phone

    OT: Is email followup notification broken? Did I miss a memo?

    It was messed up for some reason after we did the server move on Saturday. It’s working for me now. Check your spam filter, because that’s where mine were ending up at first after the problem got resolved.

    If that doesn’t work, let me know

  7. legion says:

    Red – But how then is he different from any other politician – nay, any other _person_ – in Washington?

  8. reid says:

    Doug, I don’t seem to be getting any emails, even after checking my spamholes. Curious if anyone else is seeing the problem….

  9. Herb says:

    As far as I know, the President has not joined a church and does not show up for worship on Sunday. One can be a Christian without doing either. One might not be a very good Christian while doing both. Since he isn’t doing either (at least very often), the President ought not be surprised at these poll numbers.

  10. James Joyner says:

    All: I’ve tested the comment followup and, indeed, it’s not working. It’s now added to Ed’s growing pile of things to fix.

  11. DavidL says:

    There seems to be scant evidence that Barack Hussien Obama is a Christian. Further, Obama seems to have no respect for Christians, a/k/a bitter clingers. Where as B. Hussien Obama can quote to Koran in detail offer great respect to unelected Muslim rulers and attribute Muslim contributions to human culture that simply do not exist. B. Hussien would appear to a poor Muslim but a better Muslim than he is a Christian.

  12. PD Shaw says:

    Weren’t there polls showing most Arabs in the Middle East believe Obama is secretly Muslim? I wonder if given the growing dissatisfaction with his policies in that part of the world, whether they now think he’s a Christian?

  13. reid says:

    Only kooks refer to “B. Hussien” (sic), just to put DavidL’s post into context (as if it needs it). Coming out of the woodwork today….

  14. legion says:

    Herb, Lemme get this straight… because he’s not actively trumpeting his personal religious creed, he must be a Moslem? That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

  15. Tano says:

    I think it helps to remember that 20% of the population would, on an IQ test (fwiw), score 87 (mentally “dull”) or worse.

  16. Wayne says:

    I am not sure what his religious belief is if any he and I only care if it is something outrageous. I suspect he is as much Muslim as anything but hides it since it is not politically to his advantage.

    There is no doubt that his political philosophy leans heavily to socialist side.

  17. Wayne says:

    Doug
    Many Politicians quite often make personal claims for Political reasons. One should look at their actions to to determine if those claims are true. Romney and Kennedy’s religion is and was not to their advantage. Their actions in that area lift little doubt of their religion, Obama not so much. Maybe he is a Christian and maybe he is not. I am not convince either way and am open to any evidence either way. Not that it matters to me that much.

    Doug you said that once someone has a notion their head it is hard to convince them otherwise. What would it take for you to be convince that Obama is not a Christian and\or a Muslim?

  18. mantis says:

    What would it take for you to be convince that Obama is not a Christian and\or a Muslim?

    His conversion.

  19. Herb says:

    Hmm….just curious about who’s impersonating me. I’m not the only Herb in the world, of course, but I’m just wondering if I need to start posting as “Original Herb” just so you know it’s me.

  20. john personna says:

    reid is apparently one of those guys who cannot modify his position in response to new facts.

    I’ve reminded you before about the presidential daily briefing “Bin Laden determined to strike in US”, right?

    That is enough I think that some are going to slice the question along their own interpretation of “what does it mean it know?

    I certainly don’t think it means “know” in the sense of knowing and letting it happen, but in the sense of knowing it was a threat sure.

  21. john personna says:

    BTW, show me the actual poll that said “chose not”

  22. john personna says:

    (The above posts are post-paddle and were made in a glucose deficient state.)

  23. tom p says:

    The Other Herb (is he oregano? basil?) was not saying Obama was a muslim, he was saying that Obama’s actions (not joining a church) would lead some people to think Obama is not really a christain.

  24. reid says:

    john, I have no idea why you’re after me here. I just read your link for the first time. I’ve re-read your posts a few times and don’t quite get your point, but my point was that headlines like the one Doug referred to seem designed to portray people who answer “yes” to this Bush poll as just as crazy as right-wing folks on other issues. But answering “yes” is not an unreasonable answer to the question “Was Bush aware of attacks in advance?” Yes, it depends on the interpretation of “aware” or “know”, and maybe it also depends on ignorance of the details of the well-known PDB on the matter. Bottom line, I would say the 22% number would be much lower if the question was clearer, and that the vast majority of them likely do not think Bush masterminded the attack or knowingly let it happen. That’s all. (I also don’t know of any poll that says “chose not”, but that too was my point.)

  25. tom p says:

    Personally, as a committed member of the Church of God the Almighty and the Utterly Indifferent (that He so created the world and on the 7th day he said, “It’s your problem now.”)

    I really don’t care about any one’s religious persuasion, tho I do have a problem with any person who invokes God to make their argument..

  26. john personna says:

    I’ll go lay down now.

  27. reid says:

    Um, I hope you feel better, john. Normally we’re on the same page, so that seemed out of the blue. No need to paddle yourself over it.

  28. The unoriginal Herb says:

    tom p interpreted my comment correctly. Had Obama been a regular church goer, fewer people would have believed the rumor that he is a Muslim. However, his past attendance has created other PR problems. Still, in hindsight it looks like he hurt his image by staying away. The unoriginal Herb

  29. Had Obama been a regular church goer, fewer people would have believed the rumor that he is a Muslim. However, his past attendance has created other PR problems. Still, in hindsight it looks like he hurt his image by staying away.

    This is something I can’t understand at all.

    Would you really prefer a President who made public displays of piety and made sure the cameras caught pictures of him going into church every Sunday ? Is that what Americans want ? Politicians who fake their faith ?

  30. ponce says:

    Being dumb is more fun than being smart.

    Just like being drunk is more fun than being sober.

  31. Neo says:

    Other useful (?) question they forgot to ask …

    What size shoe does President Obama wear ?
    Do you believe that President Obama speaks funny ?
    Do you believe that President Obama is color blind ?
    Do you believe that President Obama is into kinky sex ?
    Do you believe that President Obama cheats on his taxes ?
    Does President Obama really have 6 fingers on one hand ?
    Do you believe that President Obama is now or may have been in the past a Communist ?
    Do you believe that President Obama may have been the Oracle at Delphi in a past life ?
    Do you believe that President Obama may be a space alien ?

  32. tom p says:

    >>>Would you really prefer a President who made public displays of piety and made sure the cameras caught pictures of him going into church every Sunday ? Is that what Americans want ? Politicians who fake their faith ?<<<<

    Doug, in a word, Yes.

    Matthew 6:5-6
    “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "

  33. An Interested Party says:

    “I suspect he is as much Muslim as anything…”

    This, despite the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever to support such a suspicion…

    “There is no doubt that his political philosophy leans heavily to socialist side.”

    Why yes, of course…I’m sure just about everyone to the right of, say, John McCain, believes in this meme…meanwhile, those on the left, and especially the far left, would probably be more than happy to see some actual results to prove this belief…

  34. Wayne says:

    His actions and words seem to be much cozier toward Muslims and Muslims nations than the Christian and Christian nations including our very close Allies like England. He seldom if ever talked about his faith except on the campaign trail. He can’t recall what he heard when he did attend a Christian church. He seems to know more about the Muslim faith than the Christian faith.

    Maybe that constitutes “no evidence whatsoever” to you but it is evidence to me. It is circumstantial and inconclusive for sure but does make one wonder.

    Everyone right of McCain incorporates a great deal of people. Any more actual results may well destroy this country. Hopefully we can overturn Obama’s health care, anti business regulations\attitudes and business takeover after November election. Otherwise our economy will likely continue to tank.

  35. floyd says:

    Tano says:
    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 13:54
    I think it helps to remember that 20% of the population would, on an IQ test (fwiw), score 87 (mentally “dull”) or worse.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    OK …. but what about the other 60%?

  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Hmm….just curious about who’s impersonating me. I’m not the only Herb in the world, of course, but I’m just wondering if I need to start posting as “Original Herb” just so you know it’s me.***lol witch one are you? the real Herb has not posted here for a while, only the liberal one.

  37. Tano says:

    Just for a little context here.

    Although the numbers for “belief that Obama is a muslim” are certainly worthy of comment, it should also be mentioned that this same poll found that Obama’s overall approval rating to be a net +6 (the same margin by which he won election back in ’08).

    That probably counts as being as newsworthy (in the sense of being contrary to so much of the received wisdom of the day) as the muslim numbers.

  38. tom p says:

    >>>”I think it helps to remember that 20% of the population would, on an IQ test (fwiw), score 87 (mentally “dull”) or worse.”
    OK …. but what about the other 60%?<<<

    I hope that was a typo Floyd.

  39. floyd says:

    Nope

  40. tom p says:

    Ok floyd, remedial math for you….

  41. An Interested Party says:

    “His actions and words seem to be much cozier toward Muslims and Muslims nations than the Christian and Christian nations including our very close Allies like England.”

    Where is the proof of this? Or are you just basing that on your own biases…

    “Everyone right of McCain incorporates a great deal of people.”

    Sure it does, as does everyone to the left of McCain…

    “Otherwise our economy will likely continue to tank.”

    Yes, of course, because our economy was just firing on all cylinders right up until January 20, 2008…

  42. sam says:

    @Doug

    “Quite honestly, I can’t think of anything more un-American.”

    I’ve been thinking about this a bit, and while I’m in sympathy with much of what you say, I have to demur from that last. Unfortunately, I think it’s very American. 20% of the American people at any given time will, if polled, assent to the most batshit crazy thing. The numbers here are comparable to those who believed that Bush had advance knowledge of 9/11 and didn’t do anything about it because he wanted a pretext to invade Iraq (cp. FDR knew about Pearl Harbor but didn’t do anything about because…). And then there are those who believe the moon landings were faked. And …

    To vary Mencken, if there were Stupid American Futures, we could make a killing.

  43. mannning says:

    Obama, we are told, attended the Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years. He never seemed to be there for any of Wright’s tirades against America, or so Obama claims. Yet, in the end, he did throw Wright under the bus, before the election. I hear that he, Wright, is visiting Obama occasionally now at the White House. We were told also that Obama attended a Muslim school in Indonesia for a time. It was reported early on in his term that he was shopping around for a church in DC. Lately, it has been reported that the Obama’s have not been attending any church.

    There is every reason to consider the religious beliefs of a President because his belief system must color his agenda, priorities and outlook, especially in foreign relations, where he runs the show, if not also in domestic issues as well, such as health care, cap and trade, Stimulus directions, etc etc. ad nauseam and breaking the piggy bank.

    From an indication that he is a Christian, the inference can be drawn that he supports the Decalogue, The Golden Rule, and so on, which gives some insight into how he might conduct business in the WH, and personal relations in accord with Christian tenets, and with no global hidden secular agenda.

    From an indication that he is a Muslim, the inference can be drawn that he supports the Koran, Hadith, and Shari-ah, until and unless he explicitly says differently, and would conduct business in the WH and personal; relations, either as he must to gain Christian support, or, otherwise, as his religion tells him to do.

    Here, it makes a significant difference whether his faith follows the Muslims are fine fellows route, or the Muslims are Devils incarnate route. the latter being dedicated to doing bad things to the US, and that have a global hidden secular agenda. Quite obviously, from a political standpoint, announcing that he is a Muslim would cost him a lot in his current position, from those who believe that a Christian should be in the WH, which amounts to about 80 to 85% of the public. (I marvel here that so many posters simply say they don’t care what the religion of the President is, and, hence they cannot accurately identify pre-election what his moral base is most likely to be.)

    ( I would go so far as to say that, IMO, he would not have been elected if he had announced that he was a Muslim before the election.)

    With the little information available, one has to take the man’s word, and hence, one has to believe that Obama is a Christian, although not a particularly open one, and perhaps a somewhat strange one! But, then, many of us are!

  44. sam says:

    Jeez, Manning, talk about laboring mightily and bringing forth a mouse.

  45. floyd says:

    tom p says:
    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 21:31
    Ok floyd, remedial math for you….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    No….how about remedial logic for you!… Talk about over your head! [LOL]

  46. Juneau: says:

    @ Matconis

    “It is, quite honestly, easy to believe dark and conspiratorial things about a group of people when you don’t know anyone who belongs to that group and when Fox News Channel is telling you that they’re coming to destroy your country and your way of life.”

    So, 62% of Americans watch the Fox News Channel? Oh what a web we weave…

  47. Juneau: says:

    If you haven’t already, follow the link Mataconis provides where he states. ” The first, of course, is because it’s untrue.”

    Now THAT’S what I call ironclad proof! If a conservative offered a link like that in a reply as “proof”, they would be crucified by the progs here on OTB.