A poll of 400 Republican primary voters revealed that 51% of them believe that Obama was not born in the United States. 28% believe that he was born in the United States while 21% were unsure of his place of birth.
This is hardly surprising. First, the birther movement has been quite active in pushing this idea and it has also gotten support (if only via innuendo) from Republican leaders. Second, Obama is disliked (or even hated) by most Republicans and people are inclined to believe negative claims about people they dislike-even when actual evidence is lacking. Third, Obama’ “exotic” background (non-American father, time spent outside of America and so on) help create the impression that he is not a proper American. Fourth, some folks on the left (such as the fine folks at MSNBC) have been harping on the birther movement and their attacks might, ironically, serve to encourage people to accept it as correct-or at least to feel sympathy in response to their dislike of these left leaning folks.
While I am well aware that most people are poor at critical thinking and reasoning, the fact that 51% of those surveyed hold a belief that has been shown to be false beyond all reasonable doubt and that only 28% believe in a claim that has been established as true beyond a reasonable doubt worries me. After all, this would seem to indicate that these people base their beliefs on something other than evidence and reason and this bodes ill in regards to their ability to assess the candidates they will be voting for and against.
Of course, it is well worth considering that some or even many of the people surveyed gave the response they did based not on their actual belief but based on their dislike for Obama. If so, this would not be a case of people simply denying facts and holding to a delusion. Rather, it would be an indirect way of expressing their dislike of the man. This does have a certain plausibility and is worth considering when pondering the implications of the survey.