A new PPP poll of Alabama and Mississippi found that between 86% and 88% of each state’s Republicans believe that President Obama is, or could be, a Muslim.
In Alabama, 45% of the state’s Republicans thought that President Obama is Muslim. Fourteen percent correctly identified the president as a Christian, and 41% said that they weren’t sure whether President Obama was a Muslim or a Christian. Forty nine percent of Alabama’s Republican women, and forty two percent of the state’s men thought that Obama is a Muslim. Fifty five percent of Alabama Republicans over the age of 65 also got President Obama’s faith wrong.
Republicans in Alabama looked completely enlightened on the issue of Obama’s faith compared to their counterparts in Mississippi, where 52% of the state’s Republicans thought that President Obama is a Muslim. Only 12% of Mississippi Republicans correctly identified Obama as a Christian, and 36% weren’t sure whether Obama is a Muslim or a Christian. Fifty three percent of Republican men in the state, and fifty one percent of women think that Obama is a Muslim. Fifty five percent of Mississippi Republicans over age 65 thought Obama is a Muslim. Only 4% of senior GOP voters in the state correctly identified Obama as a Christian.
The reason why the Republican presidential candidates and the conservative media continue to question President Obama’s faith is because there is a sizable portion of the Republican electorate holding on to the false belief that President Obama is not a Christian. In short, the Republican presidential candidates are echoing the beliefs of GOP voters and giving them what they want.
Where did Republican voter get these beliefs?
Most likely this incorrect belief came from Fox News, talk radio, and other right wing outlets. Older Republican voters in each state were most likely to think that President Obama is a Muslim, and this same demographic makes up the bulk of the audience for Fox News. (Remember, Fox News has the oldest viewers on all of television.) The conservative media, led by Fox, has fueled the Obama is a Muslim hysteria of the uninformed right for over four years now.
However, the numbers from the Alabama and Mississippi Republicans mean more than just that these people have been uninformed or misinformed. Even when presented with the facts, Republicans reject them. In the eyes of Obama hating Republicans, belief trumps fact. The facts are irrelevant. They know that Obama is a Muslim. They don’t need evidence. They just know it.
The problem that this presents for the Republican Party is that their base wants to nominate a presidential candidate who also believes that President Obama is a Muslim, but any person they nominate who expresses that false belief is a certain loser, because a majority of the country knows that President Obama is a Christian. The propaganda and lies about Obama’s faith will continue through the 2012 election because that’s what the base wants.
The culture of ignorance created by the placing of belief over fact and maintained by a media machine that services and maintains a protective and impermeable anti-intellectual bubble around the Republican Party is one of the biggest reasons why President Obama is in a good position to win reelection.
The Republican Party collectively suffered a psychotic break with the political mainstream after the 2008 election, and their ability to maintain beliefs like Obama is or might be a Muslim demonstrates that they are a long way from being cured.