Embarrassing, especially since the question wasn’t confined to the usual narrow issue of birth-certificate minutiae. Respondents were asked, very broadly, “Was President Obama born in the U.S.?” I would have guessed that most Birthers would answer “don’t know” since that’s the crux of the issue, after all. Because The One won’t release his long-form, supposedly we’re left to wonder whether that official state Certification of Live Birth can really be trusted. In fact, that’s Trump’s position: He told “The View” a few weeks ago that he thinks Obama “was probably born in Hawaii” but that he just needs a litttttttle more convincing. As it turns out, though, only a small minority of Republicans polled chose the “don’t know” option whereas a near majority opted for a clear “nope.” What gives?
A plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.
While that might indicate that there is a receptive audience for the real estate mogul Donald J. Trump as he raises questions about Mr. Obama’s citizenship, the poll also pointed to potential roadblocks for him should he pursue a formal candidacy.
Mr. Trump has been getting considerable attention as a possibly strong contender, but just about as many Republicans view him favorably as view him unfavorably — 35 percent favorably and 32 percent unfavorably— and nearly 60 percent of Republicans interviewed said they did not believe he was a serious candidate. (Far more of all voters view him unfavorably — 46 percent — than view him favorably, 25 percent.)
These “surprisingly high percentage of conservatives believe XYZ about Obama” polls pop up sporadically, but I don’t think I’ve seen one yet that tries seriously to separate the various subsets of opinion that form that result. For instance, on the question of whether he was born in the U.S., you’ve likely got a bunch of different groups coming together in the “no” column. First, of course, there are the hardcore Birthers who are convinced that he was born in Kenya and that we’re all the victims of a horrible ruse. Then you’ve got the softcore Birthers like Trump who aren’t sure where he was born but have enough doubts over the birth certificate that they’re willing to say “no” when asked if he was born here. Then you’ve got the people who don’t follow politics generally or the Birther issue specifically but have picked up enough tidbits of Obama’s biography along the way to draw the conclusion that he was born elsewhere. They know his dad was from Kenya, they knew he grew up in Indonesia, so they conclude that he probably didn’t arrive in the U.S. until later. Remember when Huckabee misspoke and confused those two countries when referencing Obama’s bio?
Finally, you’ve got garden-variety low-information voters/idiots who not only don’t know where Obama was born, they may not even know that a natural-born requirement exists in the Constitution. According to another recent poll, only 49 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats(!) are aware that the GOP now controls the House. If not even half the party knows that, it’s no stretch to think that some chunk hasn’t a clue about the controversy over The One’s origins and is deducing the “answer” from the pollster’s interest in posing the question. (I.e. “If they’re going to the trouble of asking me where Obama was born, the answer probably can’t be as simple as ‘the U.S.'”) I don’t know what the relative percentages are for all these subgroups — it may well be that hardcore Birthers are a heavy majority and low-information idiots a tiny sliver — but it’d be worth finding out before drawing grand lessons about what the base believes. As it is, I recommend re-reading this post by Greenroomer Karl from last August, when yet another poll about Birtherism had hands a-wringing. Is Obama a natural-born citizen — or is he a werewolf?
Via Politico, here’s Trump expressing annoyance about being quizzed on Birtherism after having spent a month almost singlehandedly mainstreaming it. Exit quotation from a man who now says he only wants to talk about the real issues: “We’re looking into it very, very strongly. At a certain point in time I’ll be revealing some interesting things.”