Birthers: Ignorance is No Excuse

August 11th, 2009 at 4:42 pm | 34 Comments |

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According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina polling firm, only 24% of self-identified Republican voters in the state believe Barack Obama was born in the United States.  47% do not believe that Obama is American born, and 29% of Republicans aren’t sure.

One part of PPP’s data might reassure sentient readers somewhat:  7% of those who voted for John McCain do not believe Hawaii to be a part of the United States.  Now perhaps this is just another irrational expression of Obama hatred.  But, it may also be older voters who never quite absorbed the news that our 50th state is indeed our 50th state.

Sadly, even if the latter is the case, it doesn’t explain very much.  Last November, Obama carried North Carolina by just 14,000 or so votes out of about 4.3 million cast, the second closest state contest in the nation after Missouri.  Each candidate received a shade over 49% with minor party candidates picking up the rest.  So 7% of the McCain vote is just 3.5% of the total state vote.  McCain received about 2.128 million votes.  3.5% of that is–back of the envelope about 74,000 votes.

Ok, now lets look at the official exit polls for the state presidential race.  McCain got 95% of the Republican vote, Obama got 4%.  McCain also got 95% of the white Republican vote, Obama got 4% of that (probably an almost identical cohort).  The GOP identified vote comprised 31% of the whole (Dems 42%, independents 27%).

So McCain got almost all of that 31% of the vote that was self-identified Republican.  That comes to about 1.275 million of his 2.128 million total (obviously independents and some Democrats comprised the rest of his vote).  So charitably subtract those 74,000 North Carolina McCain voters who claim not to know that Hawaii is an American state (charitably, because let’s assume their view is a sign of ignorance, not malice towards Obama).   Now McCain’s GOP voting base is down to 1.2 million GOP voters–of which, according to thePPP poll, 76%, or just over 900,000 Republicans in the state, don’t think the president of the United States is legitimate, or aren’t sure about the matter, needing more proof than the two birth announcements that were placed in Hawaiian newspapers at the time of his birth.

Reminds me of the grim, old joke about Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:  That it’s amazing he condensed the subject into one volume.

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34 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    “Reminds me of the grim, old joke about Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life: That it’s amazing he condensed the subject into one volume.”

    ………Hofstadter’s book is one of the most brilliant treatises on American political life and thought I’ve ever read…..I originally read it back in the sixties and have read it a couple of times since but the last time was probably 20 years ago……I’ll see if I can get a copy and take it on holiday……to be fair the Brits and the Frogs can be irrational too but it’s hard to imagine large numbers of Brits believing Queen Elizabeth wasn’t the real daughter of George VI which is a reasonable analogy

  • DFL

    The ignorant, the stupid, the self-delusional and the nutty we will always have with us. I think that many who consider Obama not born in America actually just wish it were so rather than actually think it so.

    As for the 7 % of McCain voters who think that Hawaii is not a state, I am not surprised as I have come across a person who was of the same ignorance. I long ago employed a pleasant older black man to do a mailing with me on Fridays. I lquickly earned to check the foreign stack for all envelopes going to Hawaii and New Mexico, which apparently he did not consider American. Those two states were grouped together with Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, the UK and all the rest of the globals. If I could expand Mr. Debs’ little newsbite, the American lack of geographical and historical knowledge astounds.

  • ottovbvs

    dfl // Aug 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    “I think that many who consider Obama not born in America actually just wish it were so rather than actually think it so. ”

    ………So what possible motivation could they have I wonder….any suggestions?

    ……….America is the most insular modern country I’ve ever experienced…..to be fair when you’re in Billings, Montana, or on the north slope in CO, the rest of the world seems a heckuva long way away….it does in Chicago actually…….from what I have personally observed they are more interested in the doings of the rest of the world in Siberia than in some places in the remote west

  • Spartacus

    ottovbvs // Aug 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    “Hofstadter’s book is one of the most brilliant treatises on American political life and thought I’ve ever read . . . ”

    Otto, I’m starting to think you may be the most well-read person I’ve encountered.

  • MFarmer

    I don’t know who’s more pathetic, the birthers or the writers who waste space writing about the birthers.

  • Moderate

    There’s been an observed regional breakdown in where the “Birthers” are. It’s a Southern thing.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/07/where-the-birthers-are.html

    On some suppressed level, conservative Southern whites probably can’t accept that a black man is the President. By that line of thought, the only way Obama could have won would be through legerdemain.

    Ottovbvs, Spartacus:

    I see AIIAL as a dated classic (echoing Mr. Frum’s review). It’s still fashionable to decry anti-intellectualism, but I believe that the problem is getting better; look at how much ridicule Sarah Palin received. She, the very embodiment of anti-intellectualism, is a joke.

    There are plenty of reasons for optimism, but the biggest one IMHO is the role of the internet in providing access to specialized information that would have been astoundingly scarce in the past.

  • barker13

    Re: MFarmer // Aug 11, 2009 at 8:03 pm (#5) –

    Amen!

    (*THUMBS UP*)

    BILL

  • Brad Smith

    Actually, this is not quite right. The actual question the poll asks is, “Do you consider Hawaii to be part of the United States?,” not “Is Hawaii part of the United States” or “Is Hawaii a state” etc. That may sound like nothing, but it’s not. Imagine asking this question of a conservative audience: “Do you consider Berkeley to be part of the United States.” You would probably get 3% or so who would think it was pretty funny to say, “no.” Some people mishear the question – “Are Hawaii and Alaska part of the continental United States?” Some people interpret questions more literally – “of course Alaska is part of the continental U.S.” – and some more figuratively, “The ‘Continental U.S.’ means the ‘lower 48′.” And with just 277 Republicans in the sample, there is a high margin of error in these internals – high enough that the difference between McCain voters and Obama voters on the question is within the margin of error.

    Finally, a person who thought Obama was not born in the United States would have been a likely McCain voter. So here the views of the uninformed allied with a vote for the Republican Party nominee. But suppose much more had been reported about Senator McCain’s birth in the Canal zone. If you asked, almost certainly those who incorrectly believed that that meant that Senator McCain is not a U.S. Citizen eligible to be president would have voted disproportionately for Obama. In other words, this single factoid is presented as evidence that McCain voters included a lot more horribly ill-informed people that Obama voters. But we could probably use other questions to “demonstrate” that Obama voters were actually more ignorant. It is just that on this particular question, being ignorant would have made you a likely McCain voter. On another question, the reverse may have been true.

    There is no doubt that American voters are sometimes appallingly ill-informed, but I think this post attempts to accomplish too much – and frankly, I’m not quite sure why.

  • JohnMcC

    A curiosity: JohnMcCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. He’d have been our first ‘foreign-born’ President.

    A question about the poll: If that 7% that said “NO” to Hawaii being part of the US had actually been older people who never heard of statehood, what percentage would have said Alaska is not part of the US? (Of course, Sarah was born in Idaho but as Governor of Alaska would she have had some of the ‘foreigner’ tar from that brush on her?)

    A thought: What percentage of voters (and in what party are they) who would consider the US a ‘white, Christian’ nation?

  • 24AheadDotCom

    If the leaders of the supposed opposition to BHO were smart, they would use this issue to help discredit the BHO-supporting MSM. Instead, those leaders are hurting their own side while helping the MSM:

    http://24ahead.com/obama-opponents-still-helping-him

    Let me try to give a brief example. HI’s governor sends out a form letter in which she states that it would be illegal for her to verify that BHO was born there. They’ve apparently been pointing that out since at the latest the end of last year.

    Despite that, both the NYT and CNN strongly implied that HI’s governor had verified that BHO was born there. (In fact, it was the “enchanted” NYT reporter: peekURL.com/z5uo9uw).

    Someone could believe everything BHO has told them, and **at the same time** point out that the NYT and CNN were being deceptive. Yet, the leaders of the supposed opposition to BHO just can’t get their minds around that.

    For much more on this issue, see my extensive coverage:

    http://24ahead.com/s/obama-citizenship

    If anyone can find even a single false, misleading, or illogical statement on that or on any of the linked pages, let me know.

  • rbottoms

    One of Tuesday’s big mysteries was the motivation behind anti-Obama protester William Kostric, the man who brought a loaded gun to the town hall meeting and carried a sign referencing Thomas Jefferson’s famous credo, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”

    Looks like the next McVeigh is coming sooner than I thought.

  • MFarmer

    “There’s been an observed regional breakdown in where the “Birthers” are. It’s a Southern thing.”

    This poll was conducted for Daily Kos? I’m sure it’s very accurate. Yes, It’s obviously a southern redneck thing, so I wouldn’t worry — you know how those southerners are.

  • ottovbvs

    Spartacus // Aug 11, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    “Otto I’m starting to think you may be the most well-read person I’ve encountered.”

    ……….I don’t know about that but I have a lot of books, about 3,500 in my library and I like re-reading the better ones……moving house is hell however…..David reviews some good books…..the two Dreiser novels he has up at the moment (The Financier and The Titan) are the best novels about American business I’ve ever read……You should read his reviews and maybe read the novels

  • ottovbvs

    MFarmer // Aug 12, 2009 at 1:51 am
    “This poll was conducted for Daily Kos? ”

    ……..Actually the poll was conducted by Research 2000 who are perfectly respectable commercial polling company…….you don’t seem to understand the distinction between commissioning and executing polls

  • ottovbvs

    MFarmer // Aug 11, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    “I don’t know who’s more pathetic, the birthers or the writers who waste space writing about the birthers.”

    ……..The problem is the birthers appear to be a majority of the Republican party…….in a sense that’s the news not that woman with the crazy eye do…….the moment she appears on cable tv most independant and democratic people are going to going to go uh-oh and yet her lunacy has become standard belief in the second party in the land…..I’ve no doubt the Obama crowd are polling the heck out of this and liking what they see

  • barker13

    Re: Johnmcc // Aug 11, 2009 at 11:31 pm (#9) –

    “JohnMcCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. He’d have been our first ‘foreign-born’ President.”

    Actually… no.

    (*GRIN*)

    Bear with me! Re-read Brad’s post (#8). Now apply that logic – that observation about how literally one might take a question and consider…

    Was George Washington born in “the United States…???”

    (*HUGE FRIGG’N GRIN*)

    (And so on and so forth. I won’t bother googling which American president was actually the first to be born in “the United States” in the sense of the United States existing as an independent nation.)

    BILL

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  • sinz54

    rbottoms sez: “Looks like the next McVeigh is coming sooner than I thought.”

    Liberals have been using that argument since Obama was inaugurated: We gotta be nice to Obama, real nice, because otherwise we will “create a climate” in which “the first black President” could possibly be assassinated.

    I’m not buying it.

    A number of Presidents have faced assassination attempts: Lincoln, McKinley, FDR, JFK, Ford, Reagan, etc. Nobody talked about “creating a climate” back then. Obama will just have to take his chances like every other President.

    It’s the job of the Secret Service to protect Obama from any physical threats. It’s not the job of professional liberals.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Aug 12, 2009 at 10:16 am

    “Liberals have been using that argument since Obama was inaugurated: We gotta be nice to Obama, real nice, because otherwise we will “create a climate” in which “the first black President” could possibly be assassinated.

    I’m not buying it.”

    ……..Is it any wonder the GOP is increasingly perceived as reckless and irresponsible

  • rbottoms

    PORTSMOUTH — Police said the only person arrested at the scene of President Barack Obama’s visit to the city Tuesday was found to be in possession of an unlicensed loaded gun.

    Richard Terry Young, 62, of 821 Ocean Blvd. in Hampton, was arrested around 9:40 a.m., hours before Obama’s arrival, and charged with the misdemeanor crimes of criminal trespass and carrying a loaded pistol without a license.

    Young was found inside Portsmouth High School, where Obama later in the day held his town hall-style forum. Young was detained by the Secret Service and arrested by Portsmouth Lt. Corey MacDonald. Young was carrying a pocket knife, police said. A subsequent search of his vehicle, parked on school property, revealed a loaded handgun, police said.

    There’s something happening here.

  • barker13

    Re: Rbottoms // Aug 12, 2009 at 11:58 am (#20) –

    “…the misdemeanor crimes of criminal trespass and carrying a loaded pistol without a license.”

    OK. It hasn’t been that long since Rb posted. Perhaps I’m the first to check in on this thread since then.

    In any case…

    Does ANYONE aside from me do a double-take at the reporting that CARRYING A LOADED PISTOL… a LOADED UNLICENSED PISTOL… a LOADED UNLICENSED PISTOL WHILE INSIDE A PUBLIC SCHOOL… is only a misdemeanor…?!?!

    FOCUS, PEOPLE…! Focus…!!!

    Now I’m a Second Amendment fan! Heck… I’m a fan of the whole damned Constitution! (*WINK*)

    I’m not anti-gun. I wish MORE law abiding responsible citizens took the time and effort to get a license… get a gun… get proper training…

    But we’re not talking LICENSED…

    (*SHRUG*) Anyway… feel free to go back to talking about “the birthers.” (*SMIRK*)

    BILL

  • rbottoms

    Does ANYONE aside from me do a double-take at the reporting that CARRYING A LOADED PISTOL… a LOADED UNLICENSED PISTOL… a LOADED UNLICENSED PISTOL WHILE INSIDE A PUBLIC SCHOOL… is only a misdemeanor…?!?!

    An you could probably count the minutes between the time a politician proposed doing something about it and the first NRA ad denouncing him goes up on the web.

  • barker13

    Re: Rbottoms // Aug 12, 2009 at 3:36 pm (#22) –

    (*SHRUG*)

    Folks… this is what we’re dealing with.

    Rb. Other than snark and partisanism… anything… anything at all… anything at all intelligent to contribute in reaction to the point I made?

    Jeezus… this country is doomed.

    BILL

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  • rbottoms

    It’s not snark, it’s a fact. Democrats have ceased doing anything related to gun control, however sensible, because they will be demonized about it come election time.

  • barker13

    Re: Rbottoms // Aug 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm (#24) -

    ONE
    MORE
    TIME

    Would you care to address my point?

    Would you care to address your own thoughts on whether getting caught carrying a loaded unlicensed handgun on public school property should result in only a misdemeanor charge?

    And then… if and when you answer that question, here’s another:

    Is it REALLY your intent to give Dems who have ceased doing anything related to criminalizing (making it a felony) behavior such as getting caught carrying a loaded unlicensed firearm on school grounds a pass because… er… they don’t want to risk being “demonized…?”

    That’s kinda how it comes across…

    (*SHRUG*)

    BILL

  • rbottoms

    Would you care to address your own thoughts on whether getting caught carrying a loaded unlicensed handgun on public school property should result in only a misdemeanor charge?

    1. It’s stupid

    2. I don’t live there, perhaps the people who do should change the law

    3. Why are you writing in caps? Does it sound louder to you?

    Is it REALLY your intent to give Dems who have ceased doing anything related to criminalizing (making it a felony) behavior such as getting caught carrying a loaded unlicensed firearm on school grounds a pass because… er… they don’t want to risk being “demonized…?”

    Darn, that’s a tough one: Let the gun nuts bury all the AR-15′s they want in their back yard so we can get some other things done or not…

    Or to put it another way:

    Republican control of the White House and minority status in Congress when we push gun control v.s. control of the White House, House of Representatives and Senate when we don’t.

    I report, you decide.

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  • Dustin Ferrell

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/08/11/south/index.html

    Michael Lind’s essay isn’t a bad read, once the conservatives and liberals alike in here are done indulging themselves on birther-baiting.

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  • palomino

    sinz: “Liberals have been using that argument since Obama was inaugurated: We gotta be nice to Obama, real nice, because otherwise we will “create a climate” in which “the first black President” could possibly be assassinated. I’m not buying it. A number of Presidents have faced assassination attempts: Lincoln, McKinley, FDR, JFK, Ford, Reagan, etc. Nobody talked about “creating a climate” back then. Obama will just have to take his chances like every other President.”

    This attitude is both shockingly ignorant and irresponsible. Concern over Obama’s safety is hardly a liberal fantasy. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/5967942/Barack-Obama-faces-30-death-threats-a-day-stretching-US-Secret-Service.html

    And do you honestly believe there was no awareness of a heightened rhetoric during the American Freakin’ Civil War that could have further endangered Lincoln?

    There’s a huge difference between “being real nice” to Obama and propagating the lie that he’s a foreign-born Muslim usurper trojan horse who worships Hitler and wants to literally cause the downfall of America.

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