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What effect will birthers have on the 2012 election?

I don’t think that there is any questioning the fact that birtherism is “out there.” If anyone in public life tells a remotely birther-related joke, it’s all over the news feeds and the social media. Just look at the scrolling Twitter messages in the right sidebar dealing with Obama’s birther joke in New Hampshire yesterday.

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The question that I have, and for which I have no good data upon which to form an opinion, is what if any impact beliefs about the President’s birthplace will have on the 2012 election.

It’s easy to say that the people who are birthers wouldn’t vote for Obama anyway. There seems to be a correlation between foreign-birth beliefs and other ideas such as Obama being a Muslim, a communist, a disbarred lawyer, or an identity thief. Still, polls show that a fair number of Democrats and independents believe the conspiracy theories in addition to a plurality of Republicans.

Does this issue inspire campaign giving? Does it motivate people to vote? Does it make up some people’s minds who would otherwise vote another way? I think that it is an important question to ask at this stage of the development of Internet political culture whether conspiracy theories can make a difference in “real live” and in the outcome of the 2012 election.

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22 Responses to What effect will birthers have on the 2012 election?

  1. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Speaking personally, I donated more to Obama for America in 2012 than I did in 2008. It is not unreasonable to say that some of the motivation for this increase was a reaction against the birthers.

  2. avatar
    gorefan October 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    I don’t know if it will have any impact on actual votes, but for sure if President Obama loses the birthers will take credit for his defeat. Donald Trump earlier today said on his Facebook page that his challenge is the reason for the drop in the President’s poll numbers.

  3. avatar
    Slartibartfast October 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I think the effect of birtherism on the voting is negligible (very few votes actually change), but I think that the non-voting issues you give like contributions or voter enthusiasm at least have the potential to make a non-trivial impact.

  4. avatar
    Rickey October 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    gorefan:
    I don’t know if it will have any impact on actual votes, but for sure if President Obama loses the birthers will take credit for his defeat.Donald Trump earlier today said on his Facebook page that his challenge is the reason for the drop in the President’s poll numbers.

    I’m not seeing any drop in the President’s poll numbers, and certainly nothing since Trump’s challenge. Nate Silver still has Obama with a 73.6% chance of winning vs. 26.4% for Romney.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    We had a 10% chance of rain here today. It rained.

    Rickey: Nate Silver still has Obama with a 73.6% chance of winning vs. 26.4% for Romney.

  6. avatar
    Slartibartfast October 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I wonder if there are any unusual weather circumstances that might be affecting your forecast… :-P (which is not to say that unusual circumstances could not affect the election as well).

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    We had a 10% chance of rain here today. It rained.

  7. avatar
    gatsby October 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    But Nate Silver isn’t your meteorologist.

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    We had a 10% chance of rain here today. It rained.

  8. avatar
    donna October 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    a new nate silver article

    Oct. 27: Minnesota Moonlights as Swing State, but Ohio and Virginia Are More Crucial

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/oct-27-minnesota-moonlights-as-swing-state-but-ohio-and-virginia-are-more-crucial/#more-36802

  9. avatar
    Steve October 29, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    What are the chances this time that a member of Congress will challenge President Obama’s eligibility of he’s re-elected?

  10. avatar
    jayHG October 29, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    Speaking personally, I donated more to Obama for America in 2012 than I did in 2008. It is not unreasonable to say that some of the motivation for this increase was a reaction against the birthers.

    Same here.

  11. avatar
    jayHG October 29, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    gorefan:
    I don’t know if it will have any impact on actual votes, but for sure if President Obama loses the birthers will take credit for his defeat.Donald Trump earlier today said on his Facebook page that his challenge is the reason for the drop in the President’s poll numbers.

    Trump is delusional. I’m convinced of that more and more each time he opens his mouth.

  12. avatar
    foreigner October 29, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    we have 2 effects : birther debates created and increased anti-Obama sentiments,
    but also decreased Rep. credibilikty since it was debunked.
    Most prominent Reps were not happy with the movement, so they expected no
    positive impact. Obama used it in jokes and watched it with amusement
    and at some point you got the impression that is even playing with the birthers,
    not giving the evidence at once but only when he thinks the timing is good.

  13. avatar
    ellen October 29, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    Re: “Still, polls show that a fair number of Democrats and independents believe the conspiracy theories in addition to a plurality of Republicans.”

    Unfortunately the polls are increasingly being skewed by people who for one reason or another—perhaps merely a whim or irritation at being polled too much—do not tell the truths about their beliefs.

    It is odd that the press does not recognize this. After all, reporters are trained not to say that “Politician X believes in Y,” but to say that “Politician X SAYS that she believes in Y”—which is different.

    It seems to me that the way to measure the percentage of people who actually do believe that Obama was born in a foreign country is to ask in the same survey the exact same question about Romney as about Obama. In other words, if we find out that, say, 10% of voters say they believe that Romney was born in a foreign country, and 30% say they believe that Obama was born in a foreign country, then the percentage point difference between the two questions is probably about the percentage that really does believe that Obama was born in a foreign country.

    BTW, have you seen the latest polls on the percentage of Americans who say that they believe in ghosts? It’s up to 50%.

  14. avatar
    Slartibartfast October 29, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    foreigner:
    we have 2 effects : birther debates created and increased anti-Obama sentiments,

    The birthers were actually created by anti-Obama sentiments, not the other way around, and I wouldn’t say they increased them as much as they provided a focus for those who were already prejudiced against President Obama.

    but also decreased Rep. credibilikty since it was debunked.
    Most prominent Reps were not happy with the movement, so they expected no
    positive impact.

    Many Republicans at all levels chose to dog whistle to the birthers and very few stood up to denounce them in no uncertain terms. Seems to me that pretty much contradicts what you are saying…

    Obama used it in jokes and watched it with amusement
    and at some point you got the impression that is even playing with the birthers,
    not giving the evidence at once but only when he thinks the timing is good.

    What evidence? Unimpeachable evidence of President Obama’s birth in Hawai’i (which according to every credible source meant that he was natural born) was released before the birther movement even existed. He released the LFBC to make it completely obvious that the birthers were a joke and has been doing nothing but laugh at them ever since.

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy October 29, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    A challenge under the Constitution requires one Senator and one House member. Given the Tea Party candidates elected in 2010 there well may be a birther in the House.

    There would be a great deal of pressure from the Republican Party on any member who indicated that they might make an objection. On a merely pragmatic basis, it doesn’t make sense to bring an objection that wouldn’t be sustained.

    That said, there are nut cases out there who think they are saving the world by being birthers. Remember Terry Lakin. I’d give maybe a 10% chance that an objection will be raised during the counting of the votes.

    Steve: What are the chances this time that a member of Congress will challenge President Obama’s eligibility of he’s re-elected?

  16. avatar
    Rickey October 29, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    We had a 10% chance of rain here today. It rained.

    At 10:00 p.m. last night there was a 100% chance of rain here, but it’s now 10:45 a.m. and we haven’t seen a drop yet.

  17. avatar
    Scientist October 29, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: On a merely pragmatic basis, it doesn’t make sense to bring an objection that wouldn’t be sustained.

    While that is true, politicians often operate in the realm of perceptions,rather than practicalities. In 2004, there was an official challenge to the vote count for Bush regarding voting irregularities in Ohio. It was signed by Rep. Tubbs Jones of Cleveland and Sen Boxer of California. This, despite the fact that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and quickly quashed the challenge. Neither challenger suffered as result of having brought the challenge, as Ms Jones was re-elected in a landslide in 2006 as was Sen Boxer in 2010. And the current Republican crew have never felt themselves constrained by practicalities in matters like defaulting on debt, reproductive freedom, climate change or any of 100 other areas. There are plenty of members from safe red districts/states that have little fear of electoral repercussions.

    Dr. Conspiracy: I’d give maybe a 10% chance that an objection will be raised during the counting of the votes.

    I think the odds are higher. As much as 50:50 if Obama loses the popular vote. The challenge could include supposed “voter fraud” as well as “eligibility. I do not expect the Republicans to concede as Gore did in 2000 (though I hope they prove me wrong).

  18. avatar
    Scientist October 29, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Slartibartfast: I think the effect of birtherism on the voting is negligible (very few votes actually change), but I think that the non-voting issues you give like contributions or voter enthusiasm at least have the potential to make a non-trivial impact.

    Well, Obama has actually outraised Romney in recent months. As for enthusiasm, I think birthers would tend to raise enthusiasm among Dems. Some people who are luke-warm on Obama will make sure they vote just to avoid letting the birthers think they won. “Stick it to those bastards!” is a great rallying cry.

    As you know, I have looked very hard for the pro-Obama birther without success. As for those Democrats in polls who express uncertainty about where the President was born, the polls have not asked, as far as I know, whether they will vote for him regardless of that. Keep two things in mind:

    1. Many people believe Obama would be eligible even if born outside the US, because of his mother being a citizen. It makes no difference if this technically correct or not under various statutes in effect at different times. All that matters in an election is what people believe.

    2. Many people think the NBC clause is dumb and don’t feel bound by it. And, they are not, as the Constitution does not bind individuals. And consider a hypothetical election between a (presumably) eligible Davd Duke and a (presumably) ineligible Jennifer Granholm. Should an individual voter feel compelled to vote for a Nazi because she was born in Canada and came here as a small child? Would such a travesty really have been what the Founders intended?

  19. avatar
    Paper October 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    If that scenario somehow came to pass, I suspect an amendment might get passed posthaste. Perhaps in time for Granholm’s inauguration?

    Scientist:

    And consider a hypothetical election between a (presumably) eligible Davd Duke and a (presumably) ineligible Jennifer Granholm. Should an individual voter feel compelled to vote for a Nazi because she was born in Canada and came here as a small child?Would such a travesty really have been what the Founders intended?

  20. avatar
    JPotter October 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Scientist: Would such a travesty really have been what the Founders intended?

    If stipulationg that the Founders weren’t Nazis, it’s safe to assume not. They did predate them by 130+ years. Hard to be something that doesn’t exist yet.

    However, ultimately, I would hop the Founders wanted the President to represent the needs of the Country and (despite what some of them had to say about it …) the Will of the People.

    So, if the people wanted Nazis …. yikes.

    It would suck to be forced to vote for a Nazi on a technicality (“Duke? __ Ja!”). It always sucks to be raped by Nazis.

  21. avatar
    Northland10 October 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Slartibartfast: I wonder if there are any unusual weather circumstances that might be affecting your forecast… (which is not to say that unusual circumstances could not affect the election as well).

    I went to Dr. H(k)ate’s place wondering if I would see anybody falling for the birth video. Unfortunately, they were do involved in HAARP creating the current weather situation. I believe there responses to the 2012 election:

    If Obama wins;
    HAARP
    Conspriacy
    Evil Muslims
    Evil others
    Obama paid off everybody (except, when he was too incompetent, so the Bilderbergs, Trilateralists, Rothchilds, Soros, evil commies/muslim/fascists and others paid everybody off)
    RINOs

    If Obama does not win
    HAARP went nuts and kept the “those” who vote early away (I believe I know who “those” are).
    The Birthers made it possible

  22. avatar
    Slartibartfast October 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Not surprised—the hatriots over at drk(H)ate’s love them some HAARP…

    I think everyone should be comparing President Obama’s response to President Bush’s response to Katrina. I think that there are already some stark differences…

    Northland10: I went to Dr. H(k)ate’s place wondering if I would see anybody falling for the birth video.Unfortunately, they were do involved in HAARP creating the current weather situation.I believe there responses to the 2012 election:

    If Obama wins; HAARP Conspriacy Evil Muslims Evil others Obama paid off everybody (except, when he was too incompetent, so the Bilderbergs, Trilateralists, Rothchilds, Soros, evil commies/muslim/fascists and others paid everybody off) RINOs

    If Obama does not win HAARP went nuts and kept the “those” who vote early away (I believe I know who “those” are). The Birthers made it possible