I wrote a few days ago in my article, “more Republicans think Ted Cruz was born in the US than Barack Obama,” about the large number of Republicans, and especially Donald Trump supporters, who are birthers. What went wrong all of the sudden?
Actually nothing has changed. If we go back to to April of 2010 we find that 77% of people in an ABC News/Washington Post poll said Obama was born in the US, and of the 20% who didn’t, only 9% said there was solid evidence of it. Now a brand new CNN/ORC poll 5 years later yields almost identical results, with 80% saying Obama was born in the US, and of the 20% who don’t only 9% that believe there is solid evidence in support of that conclusion.
20% is at the low end of the 20–30% “crazification factor” range, the number of people who just seem to give crazy answers to polls. (In the CNN poll, 2% thought Obama was a Mormon and 1% thought he was Jewish.)
April of 2010 was before the long form was released, before Donald Trump re-popularized the birther movement, and before Sheriff Arpaio and the Cold Case Posse conducted their investigation and held their press conferences. Despite the efforts of Donald Trump, Michael Shrimpton, Mike Zullo, Mike Volin with his Sheriff Kits, a raft of lawsuits, Monckton of Benchley, Douglas Vogt and all the other birther efforts since April of 2010, the birther movement seems to be going nowhere.
CNN points out that results vary largely based on how the question is asked, with a question like “was Barack Obama born in the US?” more likely to yield a negative result than tabulating the responses from a question like “where was Barack Obama born?” In the case of the two polls cited above, the questions were put in the same open-ended way. The results from the open-ended question make it easier to separate the true birthers™ from the uninformed. One would expect that the true birther would say Obama was born in Africa, yet only 8% of respondents said that.
We find that those that I am calling “true birthers” are overwhelmingly over age 50 (14% vs. 4% of those under age 50), with an even larger percentage showing among those age 65 or older (16%). Birthers are slightly less likely to have attended college and slightly more likely to earn less than $50,000 a year. Of course they are far more likely to lean Republican than Democrat, and more conservative than liberal. Birthers are more likely to be southerners or mid-westerners. Most striking is that the number of true birthers among those who say that they oppose the Tea Party is below 2% (with a +/- 5% margin of error).
I’ve always been uncomfortable with polls that simply asked if Obama was born in the US or not, because I suspect that among people who don’t like him, some would just give a spiteful reply that doesn’t reflect their opinion on the question itself. The CNN/ORC poll seems to introduce less bias into the process.