Nearly one in five people, or 18%, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11% who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released today. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34%.In a related poll, 81% of Americans correctly identified the character in the AFLAC commercials as a duck.
The largest share of people, 43%, said they don't know his religion, an increase from the 34% who said that in early 2009. (“Poll: Nearly 1 in 5 people incorrectly call Obama Muslim”).
AP writer Hillel Italie explains the confusion about the president’s religious views this way:
Blame it on the media, or on human nature. All presidents deal with image problems -- that they're too weak or too belligerent, too far left or far right. But Obama also faces questions over documented facts, in part because some people identify more with the rumormongers than the debunkers.Nowhere does he mention that any fault lies with the president himself -- who spent his first year in office telling the Muslim world he was one of them, while at the same time sending messages to American Christians that, as far as he’s concerned, he’s had just about enough from us and we’re all on probation. (“Obama's Unholy War Against Christianity, Not Islam”).
"Trust and distrust -- that explains almost all of it," says Nicholas DiFonzo, professor of psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an expert on rumor and gossip research. "We are in such a highly polarized political environment. Our country is sorting itself into more closely knit, opposing factions each year" -- factions, DiFonzo suggests, that in turn become "echo chambers" for factoids that aren't fact at all. (“Misperceptions about Obama are on upswing, polls show”).
After looking, walking, and talking like he has since he got elected, Obama’s now surprised at the confusion.
The White House even felt compelled to respond with a terse knockdown from spokesman Bill Burton: "The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day."Leave aside the bad form involved in delegating details about the president’s devotional habits to the White House press office. But an announcement that the POTUS prays ever day may not help that much. It isn’t only Christians who pray.
Ahmadinejad prays every day, for Death to America and Israel. Muslim taxi and bus drivers pray, too, even if they have to stop traffic to do it.
And isn’t this one of those moments of high irony. Just a few years ago, when the press would report, usually as if it were a Watergate-style expose, that President Bush actually prayed for guidance as Commander in Chief, it was proof that the Taliban wing of the Republican party was forcing the country into a theocracy.
Now that yet more of Obama’s poll numbers are going in the wrong direction, he is “obviously a Christian” because he prays every day.