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Posted by on Aug 19, 2010 in Politics, Religion, Society | 0 comments

Poll: Nearly One In Five Americans Think Obama is a Muslim

Who says that negatively defining someone — facts to the contrary — doesn’t work? It sure does in 21st century American politics. Just look at this Pew Research Center poll which indicates nearly one in five Americans think President Barack Obama is a Muslim:

A substantial and growing number of Americans say that Barack Obama is a Muslim, while the proportion saying he is a Christian has declined. More than a year and a half into his presidency, a plurality of the public says they do not know what religion Obama follows.

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama’s recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.

The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers. Roughly a third of conservative Republicans (34%) say Obama is a Muslim, as do 30% of those who disapprove of Obama’s job performance. But even among many of his supporters and allies, less than half now say Obama is a Christian. Among Democrats, for instance, 46% say Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009.

And the number of independent voters now buying into the false claim that Obama is a Muslim is growing:

The belief that Obama is a Muslim has increased most sharply among Republicans (up 14 points since 2009), especially conservative Republicans (up 16 points). But the number of independents who say Obama is a Muslim has also increased significantly (up eight points). There has been little change in the number of Democrats who say Obama is a Muslim, but fewer Democrats today say he is a Christian (down nine points since 2009).

The political implications of this are clear in several areas.

First, it shows that more than ever if there is a steady mantra of negative definition it will stick to a candidate.

Secondly, it shows again how Obama and his political team are seemingly — and shockingly — out to lunch in doing what it takes to short-circuit political urban legends.

Thirdly, as GOPers hammer the issue of the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero and top GOPers (Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and others) imply that Islam is somehow akin to Nazis or akin to neonazis or skinheads and that Muslims as a group are dangerous, it further hurts Obama — since an increasing number of Americans now consider him a Muslim…as defined by Republicans who are either verbally attacking Muslims as a religion or doing it in a way so they can deny they are (when everyone knows they are).

The New York Times notes that misconceptions about Obama are sticking.

The findings suggest that, nearly two years into Mr. Obama’s presidency, the White House is struggling with the perception of “otherness” that Candidate Obama sought so hard to overcome — in part because of an aggressive misinformation campaign by critics and in part, some Democratic allies say, because Mr. Obama is doing a poor job of communicating who he is and what he believes.

The president’s recent comments on the controversy over whether to build an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero in Lower Manhattan have most likely intensified suspicions about him. Yet the Pew survey, completed before Mr. Obama spoke out in favor of the right of Muslims to build the center, shows that misperceptions were building even before then.

“This is an expression of the people who are opposed to Obama having an increasingly negative view of him,” said Andrew Kohut, the Pew center’s director.

But Mr. Kohut also said the numbers reflected that Mr. Obama had “not made religion a part of his public persona” as much as he did during his presidential campaign — so much so that even his own supporters are confused……

The White House has at times seemed to throw up its hands at the so-called birther conspiracy…..But Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said aides did work hard to push back against misinformation in a news media environment in which “the tweets of discredited rabble-rousers have as much credence to many as the pronouncements of the paper of record.”

Some allies say the White House could be doing a better job….“This is a president who gave really compelling speeches about faith and values, memorable stuff,” said the Rev. Dr. David P. Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University who has advised Mr. Obama on religious matters. “And you’re not hearing that voice right now.”

The White House says the public — and the press — are not listening.

As I noted here, just consider Obama — on several fronts — the “Velcro President.”

FOOTNOTE: This poll means you’ll see even MORE, more intensive negative defining by both sindes — since it W-O-R-K-S. (Talk show hosts must be smiling..)

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