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New poll today: Birthers going nowhere

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?

imageActually 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.

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61 Responses to New poll today: Birthers going nowhere

  1. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    The other side of this is: Birthers are going nowhere.

    As much as lunatic birthers can’t get traction convincing sane, informed people of their lunatic ideas, sane, informed people can’t (and never will) get traction convincing lunatic birthers of reality.

    In this sense, it’s a permanent stalemate (albeit one that is, fortunately, heavily skewed towards reality).

    Still, the existence of such a significant population who can under no circumstances be separated from their patently false illusions is a bit discouraging to those of us who would like to believe that we belong to an intelligent species.

  2. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    And when I say the state of affairs is permanent, I mean permanent. There’s nothing that would convince the lunatic fringe of their lunacy.

    If the State of Hawaii sponsored a bus tour through every city in the United States of 25,000 population or more, so that all American citizens who want could see and touch the President’s birth certificate, birthers would claim they just came up with a better fake.

    If the US Supreme Court heard Cody Judy’s (or any other birther’s) case, listened to all of the evidence for nineteen full days, ruled 9-0 that all evidence indicates that President Obama was born in the United States and explained with infinite patience the centuries-long precedents that make it so, the birthers would all proclaim that all the members of the Court had had their families threatened with torture if they ruled any other way.

    If God himself appeared in the sky and proclaimed that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, that He spoke to the Founders and urged them to adopt a plan that all born on US soil would be eligible to be President, and affirmed that they did, and proclaimed that while Obama might not suit everybody’s tastes, he was the appointed President for this time, the birthers would all say that the vision was some kind of advanced special effect or mass hypnosis created by the government.

    This is even more discouraging when you realize there are probably equal-sized populations of stupid people on both sides of the political aisle, and the poll figures above, for the most part, filter out the left-leaning crazies.

    The implication is that it’s not 9% of the population – of one of the most educated countries on the planet – who are (figurative) idiots, but unfortunately, closer to 18%.

  3. avatar
    RanTalbott September 14, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    the birther movement seems to be going nowhere.

    Maybe. But maybe not.

    To actually prove that, you’d need a longitudinal study of a given population.

    To me, the similarity of the poll results suggests that the birthers have managed to replace the people (like Reilly) who dropped out after the LFBC release and verifications, with new recruits. Not knowing how many of those people there were, we can’t really tell whether the birfer population is “fairly static”, “on a plateau”, or “growing significantly after the cull”.

    I vaguely (and possibly incorrectly) recall seeing some poll results showing an increase in the birfer population after the LFBC release. It could be that the efforts of Zullo and the phony “document experts” actually saved the movement from a well-deserved death by ridicule.

    In the immortal words of Johnny 5: needs more input.

  4. avatar
    RanTalbott September 14, 2015 at 1:24 am #

    Pete: This is even more discouraging when you realize there are probably equal-sized populations of stupid people on both sides of the political aisle

    Perhaps, but there’s a difference between “stupid” and “crazy”. And there’s no doubt that the right-wing fringe in the U.S. is wider, crazier, and more powerful than the one on the left.

    If there are as many stupid people on the left, they’re mostly being quiet about it. And the groups that might be called “crazy”, like PETA and the “bring down technological civilization” environmentalists, are small and mostly ineffectual: at best, they might nudge more people toward the positions of their less-radical counterparts than they drive away.

    The GOP wingnuts, otoh, are able to vote in unelectable candidates like O’Donnell and Sharon Angle, and strongarm the party into positions that cost it elections. That’s a large, and qualitative, difference.

  5. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 2:28 am #

    RanTalbott: And there’s no doubt that the right-wing fringe in the U.S. is wider, crazier, and more powerful than the one on the left.

    You may not doubt it, but I do (at least over the long term of decades, not the current activist short term of 5 or 10 years.)

    First of all, there’s no reason why one side of the political aisle should have more or less crazies than the other. My hypothesis is that the crazies and the stupid people on both sides – over the long term, at least – are likely more or less equal.

    This is supported by the fact that there’s no identifiable reason for them not to be.

    I don’t deny that there is likely far more CURRENT VISIBLE EVIDENCE of lunacy on the right than on the left.

    This is because lunatics tend to come out and make the most noise when the other party is in power.

    Another factor here is that this is an area with huge differences of perspective and confirmation bias. From my observation, people on the left tend to sincerely believe people on the right are nuts, and vice-versa.

    Specific candidates like O’Donnell and Angle are anecdotal evidence. There are always crazy and stupid people on both sides, and sometimes in positions of great prominence or power. You want anecdotes on the left, well, Cynthia McKinney, Joe Biden.

    Biden couldn’t even keep his mouth shut about the (formerly) top-secret bunker under the Vice-President’s mansion.

    And this is who we have ready to take over as President of the United States if the current President should happen to choke on a peanut.

  6. avatar
    brygenon September 14, 2015 at 2:29 am #

    RanTalbott
    To actually prove that, you’d need a longitudinal study of a given population.

    I don’t think so. We deal with public opinion in the whole. We’re not trying to cure individual birthers.

    To me, the similarity of the poll results suggests that the birthers have managed to replace the people (like Reilly) who dropped out after the LFBC release and verifications, with new recruits. Not knowing how many of those people there were, we can’t really tell whether the birfer population is “fairly static”, “on a plateau”, or “growing significantly after the cull”.

    I think that still counts as stagnant. The age demographics alone tell us that they must be getting new votes just to keep the same numbers.
    As Dr. C. suggests, the birther counts here are dominated by people who give crazy answers on polls. I suspect some had no idea and thought they should guess. Active birthers are far too rare to count in a randomized national sample.

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 14, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    We go back to how the question was asked.

    A July 2014 Rasmussen poll gives 60% saying Obama is not a non-US Citizen.
    May 2014 YouGov poll said 56% say Obama is eligible (includes two-citizen parent issue)
    February 2014 YouGov Poll said 62% believe Obama was born in the US
    In October, YouGov published a table on “Barack Obama was born in the United States” (https://today.yougov.com/news/2012/10/01/birthers-arent-going-anywhere-update/)
    – April 2011 before release of long form: 55%
    – April 2011 after release of long form: 67%
    – January 2012 59%
    – July 2012 55%
    – September 2012 59%
    In May of 2011 the Christian Science Monitor reported “Number of ‘birthers’ is declining, recent polls show”
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0513/Number-of-birthers-is-declining-recent-polls-show

    RanTalbott: In the immortal words of Johnny 5: needs more input.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 14, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    If one side does have more crazies, then it could be the result of migration. Let’s say that there was a charismatic anti-science candidate. Perhaps the crazies would flock to the party of that candidate.

    I really have no experience with the extreme left to know how crazy they are.

    Pete: You may not doubt it, but I do.

    First of all, there’s no reason why one side of the political aisle should have more or less crazies than the other.

  9. avatar
    Keith September 14, 2015 at 4:12 am #

    My experience during the late 60’s and early 70’s in communicating with people from the ‘lunatic left’ that while they were bringing up all kinds of idiotic and crazy charges against Nixon, they were absolutely astounded that he was actually doing even more idiotic and crazy things that they could imagine.

    No one actually imagined that a right wing President of the United States would develop an enemies list and then use all the Governmental machinery to ‘get them’; or that any such list would actually consist of so many minor non-political people.

    No one actually imagined that an out of power Presidential Candidate would strike a secret deal to prolong a war in order to enhance his own election chances. This seems to have set a precedent that Republicans have almost turned into a tradition (Reagan and the current Congress).

    What I’m saying is, that the lunatic left tends to underrate the actions they are trying to lampoon – and that is generally what their outlandish pronouncements are about – lampooning the right. The lunatic left doesn’t really want to pay 100 gazillion dollars to the descendants of slaves as restitution – they know that is impossible – they just want to pull the electorate a bit more into the ‘America was built by slavery; surely they deserve a bit of respect for that’ mindset. The lunatic left doesn’t really think that PIV is always rape, and never consensual. They really do understand that intercourse is a biological imperative to continue the species. They just want to pull the electorate more towards the ‘respect women’ mindset than what is apparent today.

    Of course there are those that confuse the lunatic left in the 60’s and 70’s with the bomb makers, the terrorists of their day. These people are not left or right, they are anarchists, which is off the left-right, liberal-conservative scale. The other end of the scale the Anarchists are on are the Oligarchists. Libertarians are measured on that scale too, swinging between Anarchy and Oligarchy depending on their audience.

    What I mean by a different scale is that just as Anarchists can be ‘left wing’ (for example: the Weathermen) so too can they be ‘right wing’ (for example: the Tea Party). Anarchists of the left and right both tend to be noisy and outlandish, while Oligarchs (of the left and right) tend to remain quite, hidden, and secret while they preform their machinations.

    For some reason Anarchists, as a whole, tend to be more left wing than right, while Oligarchs tend to be right wing (Koch Brothers, Murdoch). But as the the Tea Party demonstrates that is far from always the case. Libertarianism ‘outer teaching’ seems to focus on hiding the anarchic consequences of their end game.

  10. avatar
    bovril September 14, 2015 at 4:15 am #

    You have to remember that crazy covers the entire political spectrum.

    As example the British Labour Party has just elected as their new leader via poll, a certain Mr Corbyn.

    A real life, as opposed to imaginary Obama, Left Wing radical of the old school on a platform that would give RWNJ’s of the US mass heart attacks.

    His election has basically handed at least the next election to the Conservatives (well to the left of the Dems) as his views are in fundamentals about as far away from the general populace a you can get.

    There are strange parallels with Trump in a candidate for the highest office saying things the populace kinda want to hear with little connection to reality and a fervid new band of true believers desperately ignoring all the negatives.

  11. avatar
    The Magic M September 14, 2015 at 4:19 am #

    Pete: First of all, there’s no reason why one side of the political aisle should have more or less crazies than the other.

    You forget an important part of one large source of crazyness: religion.
    Very religious people tend to be (very) conservative, therefore the clear majority of crazy religious people can be found on the right.
    I don’t think the left has an equal-sized group of, say, crazy atheists.
    So even if we concede that for every other conceivable group of crazy people, the numbers come out 50:50, the religious ones tip the balance towards the right, and not by a small margin.

  12. avatar
    brygenon September 14, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Let’s say that there was a charismatic anti-science candidate. Perhaps the crazies would flock to the party of that candidate.

    Perhaps, but I expect science to maintain a high approval rating until the nuclear holocaust or robot rebellion.

    I really have no experience with the extreme left to know how crazy they are.

    I’m skeptical, even cynical, about how we plot every great or stupid idea on this left-right line. I’ve met right-wing sovereign-citizen types who think that 9/11 was an inside job. I’ve met left-wing back-to-the-60’s hippie types who think that 9/11 was an inside job. I’ve met moderate centrist swing-vote types who think that 9/11 was an inside job. Same whack-job left to right.

  13. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 14, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    From what I remember from 9/11 truther polls, they were more evenly spread across the left-right spectrum than birthers.

    brygenon: Same whack-job left to right.

  14. avatar
    alg September 14, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    Pete: Still, the existence of such a significant population who can under no circumstances be separated from their patently false illusions is a bit discouraging to those of us who would like to believe that we belong to an intelligent species.

    While polls may indicate that there is still a sizable part of the population that believes Obama is Muslim and was born somewhere other than Hawaii – when asked – the number of people who actually care about this subject is fleetingly small. Even the number of us active Obots represents a small percentage of those who know Obama is Christian and was born in Hawaii.

    Believing something is one thing. Motivation to act upon one’s beliefs is entirely different. Fortunately, we have people like Doc, here, who are motivated to engage and inform the rest of us about facts and reality. Blogs and websites like this and Fogbow serve to contain the number of birther believers below a threshold where unrestrained motivation could turn into ugly acts by large numbers of people. It’s an effective counterweight to the nonsense factory.

  15. avatar
    Benji Franklin September 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: From what I remember from 9/11 truther polls, they were more evenly spread across the left-right spectrum than birthers.

    I don’t trust quantitative polling of Birthers that does not contemplate the fact that each Birther so often contains several crazy people.

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 14, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about an article for a few days, tentatively called “Follow your passion.” It came about my personal inventory of stuff I do, trying to separate the things that I am passionate about from the stuff I just got roped into, or do out of habit. If published, it will more likely appear on my other blog (BlogOrDie.com).

    This blog is one of the things I was passionate about–i intentionally used the past tense there. At this point, I think the conflict is over, and I’m just seeing it through until Obama leaves office. The topic remains interesting, but I’m somewhat of a lame duck at this point.

    One of the things that I am passionate about right now is Habitat for Humanity. I’ll never make the 1,000 hours a year that I was spending on this blog the first few years, but I may make 200 hours building for the 2nd half of this year. It’s extremely fulfilling work.

    I have lots of irons in the fire and when the blog shuts down in January 2017, I’ll have plenty of worthwhile things to do.

    alg: Fortunately, we have people like Doc, here, who are motivated to engage and inform the rest of us about facts and reality.

  17. avatar
    Curious George September 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    If a Birther fails in the woods, does he make a sound?

  18. avatar
    Benji Franklin September 14, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    Curious George: If a Birther fails in the woods, does he make a sound?

    If the Birther failing in the woods is Charles Lincoln III, Orly makes a sound. She also makes a sound if he succeeds, but it is a different sound.

  19. avatar
    Woodrowfan September 14, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    Curious George: If a Birther fails in the woods, does he make a sound?

    yes, he says “Obama tripped me!”

  20. avatar
    Joey September 14, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    In my humble opinion, there are lunatic fringes at both extremes of the political spectrum. Those on the left see the right wing lunatic fringe as larger and more crazy and those on the right see the left wing lunatic fringe as larger and more crazy. In the absence of valid and reliable statistical data, one’s perspective merely shows one’s biases.
    There’s enough political ideology insanity to go around.

  21. avatar
    Curious George September 14, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    If a Birther fails in the woods, does he hear the crushing sound of defeat?

  22. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: If one side does have more crazies, then it could be the result of migration. Let’s say that there was a charismatic anti-science candidate. Perhaps the crazies would flock to the party of that candidate.

    I would certainly admit the possibility that one side may (at least temporarily) have more crazies.

    Under this theory, a certain number of crazies may be simply anti-establishment, and may migrate from being apparent right-wing crazies when the left is in power, and apparent left-wing crazies when the right is in power.

  23. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    What would we call this? The Lunatic Migration Theory?

    Or maybe better yet, the Moonbat Migration Theory (MMT).

  24. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    Keith: The lunatic left doesn’t really think that PIV is always rape, and never consensual. They really do understand that intercourse is a biological imperative to continue the species. They just want to pull the electorate more towards the ‘respect women’ mindset than what is apparent today.

    I think you have to take people’s word as to their believing what they say, at least to a certain extent.

    I think it’s certainly true of many birthers that they don’t actually believe the crap they say either, and are simply “trying to pull the electorate more towards an anti-Obama mindset.”

    I couldn’t agree with a statement that the loonies of either side simply “don’t mean what they say.”

  25. avatar
    Curious George September 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Talk about Birthers going nowhere, *FALCON* is back at BR and it looks like he’s beginning to see the reality of the situation. Here’s an excerpt of his post:

    “Lastly, Zullo and Arpaio were poised for greatness and collapsed under intimidation. Greatness never collapses under threat nor intimidation – and if it did America would still be controlled by Great Britain. Don’t expect anything stellar from those cowards.

    You get one shot in this life – you either grab it or you’re forever labeled a coward. Mike Zullo decided he didn’t have the balls. Case closed.”

    Can’t say we didn’t tell you A/Z day would never happen.

  26. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    The Magic M: So even if we concede that for every other conceivable group of crazy people, the numbers come out 50:50, the religious ones tip the balance towards the right, and not by a small margin.

    I will agree that there seem to be a significant number of religious crazies.

  27. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    alg: the number of people who actually care about this subject is fleetingly small. Even the number of us active Obots represents a small percentage of those who know Obama is Christian and was born in Hawaii.

    Right. And as I’ve said a few times lately, personally, I show up here just for the entertainment value. The birthers are of no consequence.

  28. avatar
    Pete September 14, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    Curious George:
    If a Birther fails in the woods, does he make a sound?

    “LetmeFEENISH!”

  29. avatar
    HistorianDude September 14, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    Pete: First of all, there’s no reason why one side of the political aisle should have more or less crazies than the other.

    Actually, it depends on the kind of crazy. My personal theory has long been than in the hunter-gatherer tribes for which we evolved (and for which our brains are attuned), there was survival value in the general sets of predispositions that today express as conservationism and liberalism. Both are capable of crazy, but the paranoiac / conspiracist sort of crazy expresses far more among conservatives. Here is a gloss on my reasoning:

    Even though as social animals we were able to become predators of note in our varied environments, we were never apex predators, We simply did and do not have the claws, teeth, size, strength and speed necessary to take the role that was occupied by animals we still inherently fear (lions, tigers and bears, oh my). As such we retained the psychology of prey animals. As such, general anxiety has great survival value.

    The cost of assuming that the nearby rustling bush conceals a sabre toothed cat and being wrong is very low. On the other hand, the cost of assuming that the nearby rustling bush DOES NOT conceal a sabre toothed cat and being wrong is very high. To carry fear as a default response to surprise or novelty works well for the immediate survival of prey animals. Try sneaking up on a wild rabbit. It’s hard to do.

    Scaled up to the modern nation state, that default response of fear to surprise or novelty underlays much of the behavior of conservatives when confronted with novelty, difference or change. The difference is… there are not apex predators on which those feelings can be blamed and rationalized. Our competition is not large animals with big teeth, but other people… but the psychology of prey animals ascribes to those “other” people the characteristics of predators. Murderous intent. A capacity for unapologetic violence. A life-or-death consequence to the conflict. And the physiological response is classic fight-or-flight (making concealed carry very attractive to this type).

    This is why ominous conspiracies haunt the zeitgeist of the conservative fringe. The Masons, The Illuminati. The Bilderbergers. The Muslims. The Elders of Zion. These are not just conspiracies with evil intent, they are the apex predators that justify our continuous sense of anxiety and fear in the face of rapid and continuous change.

    It’s hard wired into our species.

    Now… this set of characteristics has great value in terms of immediate survival and in generally static environments. It is less valuable in times of rapid environmental change when the necessary response (since we can’t evolve at the same speed) is behavioral flexibility and a willingness to preemptively abandon what no longer works in favor of innovation and change. The pay off may not be immediately differential survival of the individual, but instead longer term survival of the community. This is where the set of characteristics that translate to modern liberalism become valuable. I have a whole parallel discussion of liberalism as well, but that is for some other time.

    What is important is that through most of human history we alternated between long periods of stasis and punctuations of rapid change, meaning both sets had regular opportunities to contribute to our survival as a species. Technology may have accelerated those alternations, tilting the balance, but not so long ago that our genes have had the ability to selectively respond.

    That’s my theory in a nutshell. I’m constructing a little blog on the subject.

  30. avatar
    RanTalbott September 14, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    HistorianDude: The cost of assuming that the nearby rustling bush conceals a sabre toothed cat and being wrong is very low.

    I’m pretty sure that Oscar Pistorius would disagree with you. I’m dead certain (pun intended) that Reeva Steenkamp would.

    Yes, those rapid subconscious judgment calls tend to have some survival value, when you’re in an environment full immediate deadly dangers. But they also tend to be counterproductive, often tragically so, when you’re not.

    This is a huge problem because those extreme conservatives tend to be even worse than the already-poor first-world average when it comes to assessing the threat level of the environment. It leads to tragedy on a micro level when they shoot their late-returning family members in the middle of the night, and on a macro level when they’re in power and legislate counterproductive “solutions” to problems that are trivial or non-existent.

    This isn’t exclusive to the right: the national nervous breakdown we had after 9/11 that led to the Iraq War was somewhat skewed to the right, but covered the whole spectrum of politics. But the cooler heads that used to mostly rein in the impulses of the extremes have gotten a lot weaker on the right than they have on the left. And that makes them more dangerous.

    We’ve reached a point where our prosperity as a species, and possibly our very survival, is dependent on a rapid rate of social and technological change. We need conservatives to challenge those changes to help ensure they’re wise, but the efforts to stop, or even reverse, it are now like an appendix: at best, they’re useless. At worst, they could kill us.

  31. avatar
    Pete September 15, 2015 at 12:26 am #

    One, I’m kind of skeptical of sweeping psychoanalytical generalizations (except maybe of birthers).

    Two, I still don’t see any reason why such effects should be strongly conservative.

    Back when Bush was President, there were plenty of people saying he was behind 9/11, that he was in process of imposing a dictatorship through the Patriot Act, etc.

    It just seems to me that whoever the current President is, there’s always a significant group of people who are convinced that he’s the devil incarnate.

  32. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 15, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    While that is undoubtedly true, it doesn’t mean that there is no leaning among one side of the political spectrum towards conspiracy theories. There is a sharp divide between Tea Party supporters and their opponents on the subject of where Barack Obama is born, but there are still some birthers in both groups.

    Everyone would acknowledge that there are conspiracy theorists on the left and on the right. Richard Hofstadter’s essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” talked mainly about right-wing conspiracy theories. Jesse Walker in his book “The United States of Paranoia” argues that conspiracy theories are pervasive in American culture. I highly recommend both of those.

    Pervasive or not, there remains the question of whether there is a predilection towards conspiracy thinking among those on the political right. A big study could answer that question, and there might be such a thing. Absent that, we have Michael Shermer’s book, “The Believing Brain,” that talks about the neurophysiological basis for both political ideology and conspiracy thinking.

    Pete: It just seems to me that whoever the current President is, there’s always a significant group of people who are convinced that he’s the devil incarnate.

  33. avatar
    Pete September 15, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Yes, it seems to me that the way to clarify the question would be some type of big study. Which would, of course, have to itself be unbiased and well-done. As I’m sure you’re well aware, too large a percentage of studies of anything end up flawed in one way or another.

  34. avatar
    Slartibartfast September 15, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    I don’t think that there is “migration” per se, I believe that, at some point, people become more “crazy” than “right” or “left” and start feeling affinity for ANY crazy story. I don’t think that the left is less prone to the crazy necessarily (e.g. 9/11 truthers), but that the right has let their crazies run amok. Gone seem to be the type of Republicans willing to crack down on the John Birch Society.

    *sigh*

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    If one side does have more crazies, then it could be the result of migration. Let’s say that there was a charismatic anti-science candidate. Perhaps the crazies would flock to the party of that candidate.

    I really have no experience with the extreme left to know how crazy they are.

  35. avatar
    Slartibartfast September 15, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    The poster child for this would be drk(H)ate.

    Slartibartfast: I don’t think that there is “migration” per se, I believe that, at some point, people become more “crazy” than “right” or “left” and start feeling affinity for ANY crazy story.

  36. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 15, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    As I flip through some of my books, I am reminded that there have actually been a number of studies on conspiracist thinking. Academic studies come from, for example, the disciplines of history, political science, social science and psychology. Following is one study on the factors underlying critical thinking (which I presume is a negative indicator for conspiracist beliefs).

    Cognitive ability, thinking dispositions, and instructional set as predictors of critical thinking” Macpherson and Stanivich.

    I picked up a term in that article that I may start using:

    “Myside bias is the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward one’s own opinions”

    Another valuable book, although not about conspiracy theories, is “The Authoritarians,” by Altemeyer.

    Pete: Yes, it seems to me that the way to clarify the question would be some type of big study.

  37. avatar
    Benji Franklin September 15, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Pete: As I’m sure you’re well aware, too large a percentage of studies of anything end up flawed in one way or another.

    Especially when the study involves polling politically interested individuals about an issue which a)THEY DECIDE has political implications for their real or imagined interests, and which b) THEY IMAGINE may be later impacted by the results of the “study”.

    And here is where I think the Birther brand of RWNJ’s demonstrate a difference between their brand of excess and that of the far left.

    Interviewer: “Which parts of the following statement do you think is true about Donalt Rump? He is a U.S. hating, traitorous, murdering, child-molesting, anti-Christian, spawn of Satan who does not have the intelligence to pick the green crayon out of a box of crayons.”

    Left winger:”None of them are true, of course.”

    Interviewer: “Which parts of the following statement do you think is true about President Obama? He is a U.S. hating, traitorous, murdering, child-molesting, anti-Christian, spawn of Satan who does not have the intelligence to pick the green crayon out of a box of crayons.”

    Birther:”All of them are true, of course. And he’s forged every document in the Western Hemisphere, he probably raped Mother Teresa, he has never told the truth, water cannot be wet if he says it is, he wants every true American dead, he hates the military, his wife is a whoring male, he’s a gay male who murders his gay lovers while hating God, he’s spent billions of stolen dollars hiding his records, and he was born in Hitler’s bunker, after having sex with him.”

  38. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    No, or course not. That was a description of George W. Bush.

    Benji Franklin: Left winger:”None of them are true, of course.”

  39. avatar
    Benji Franklin September 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: No, or course not. That was a description of George W. Bush.

    Very funny. But in saying that, you’re a lefty who is actually admitting that your lefty tribe is capable of excess in evaluating the character of righties. Can you imagine Mike Violin, even in jest, describing himself as having unfairly evaluated or unfairly accused Obama of any of the crimes or dastardly deeds the Birthers have dreamed up?

  40. avatar
    Pete September 15, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Slartibartfast: I don’t think that the left is less prone to the crazy necessarily (e.g. 9/11 truthers), but that the right has let their crazies run amok. Gone seem to be the type of Republicans willing to crack down on the John Birch Society.

    Yeah, you’re probably right about that. 🙁

  41. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    I’m thinking that there are two distinct classes of conspiracy theories One has to do with finding patterns in random data, and the other comes from the Dunning-Kruger effect and someone misunderstanding an observation.

    The first category includes the classic Bilderberger, Illuminati, Jesuit, Jewish conspiracies which string together people and events. The second seems to be more modern.

    Examples include 9/11 truthers who look at the WTC collapse, note that it is similar to controlled demolitions they have seen, and think they are expert enough know one when they see one. It includes moon landing hoaxers who know what a flag looks like when it flaps in a gentle breeze, and conclude that the swaying flag must imply a breeze. Finally, the birther who knows that when they edit a photo, the parts can’t just be lifted and moved around, and think they know how all image storage works.

    Interestingly, the Obama stories really weren’t misinterpretation of facts at the beginning. Arguments that the COLB was a forgery were arcane and incomprehensible. At the start I think birtherism was born out of myside bias, and maybe this is a third kind of conspiracy theory.

  42. avatar
    Lissa September 15, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    What I don’t understand is why the media is not asking their audience why Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president but Obama was not.

  43. avatar
    The Magic M September 16, 2015 at 4:28 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Arguments that the COLB was a forgery were arcane and incomprehensible.

    I don’t really remember that type of argument, only that the first “arguments” were “because it has to be since he was born in Kenya” and silly stuff like “the redacted COLB isn’t valid because it says any alterations invalidate it”.

    Lissa: why the media is not asking their audience why Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president but Obama was not

    What difference would it make? Birthers and their affiliates fall into these categories:

    1. “I know, that’s why I won’t vote for him either.” (Full metal birther.)
    2. “He is not the nominee so it’s not important right now.” (Obama smear campaign birther.)
    3. “Obama did it, so Cruz can, too!” (Hypocritical birther.)
    4. “Cruz is only doing it to blow the Obama case wide open.” (Hoping against hope birther.)

    In either case, it would not make any birther change their mind, nor be of interest to any non-birther.

  44. avatar
    John Reilly September 16, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I’m thinking that there are two distinct classes of conspiracy theories One has to do with finding patterns in random data, and the other comes from the Dunning-Kruger effect and someone misunderstanding an observation.

    The first category includes the classic Bilderberger, Illuminati, Jesuit, Jewish conspiracies which string together people and events. The second seems to be more modern.

    Examples include 9/11 truthers who look at the WTC collapse, note that it is similar to controlled demolitions they have seen, and think they are expert enough know one when they see one. It includes moon landing hoaxers who know what a flag looks like when it flaps in a gentle breeze, and conclude that the swaying flag must imply a breeze. Finally, the birther who knows that when they edit a photo, the parts can’t just be lifted and moved around, and think they know how all image storage works.

    Interestingly, the Obama stories really weren’t misinterpretation of facts at the beginning. Arguments that the COLB was a forgery were arcane and incomprehensible. At the start I think birtherism was born out of myside bias, and maybe this is a third kind of conspiracy theory.

    Doc, you are trying to find reason in the unreasonable.

    Birtherism was born in the mis-wired minds of folks who, in prior generations, believed in demonstrably false propositions. (Think of anti-Semitism in countries without any significant Jewish population, for example.) Since their brains are not properly wired, logic does not work. And they will move among the various divisions you and Magic M posit with ease because their belief systems are conclusion driven.

  45. avatar
    Pete September 16, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    I’d say we have several categories of birthers.

    1. At the scummy end of the spectrum, there’s the birther con artist, who knows it’s all bs but is fraudulently playing it for his/her benefit.

    2. Then there’s the “I see the pattern here” birther who finds a “clear pattern” in random data. Paul Irey strikes me as being partly of this type.

    3. Then there’s the Dunning-Kruger birther, who thinks he understands a lot more than he does. Paul Irey again.

    4. I think the rank and file semi-birthers who are normally almost invisible but show up in polls are largely due to myside bias combined with gullibility, isolated sources of news, believing whatever authority they listen to (which again is myside bias and isolated news sources), and a lot of not caring enough or being too busy to find out the truth about birther claims for themselves.

  46. avatar
    Lupin September 16, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    Pete:
    I’d say we have several categories of birthers.

    1. At the scummy end of the spectrum, there’s the birther con artist, who knows it’s all bs but is fraudulently playing it for his/her benefit.

    2. Then there’s the “I see the pattern here” birther who finds a “clear pattern” in random data. Paul Irey strikes me as being partly of this type.

    3. Then there’s the Dunning-Kruger birther, who thinks he understands a lot more than he does. Paul Irey again.

    4. I think the rank and file semi-birthers who are normally almost invisible but show up in polls are largely due to myside bias combined with gullibility, isolated sources of news, believing whatever authority they listen to (which again is myside bias and isolated news sources), and a lot of not caring enough or being too busy to find out the truth about birther claims for themselves.

    And then, there is Falcon or BSE who are fit to be tied up & locked away.

  47. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    Those were the arguments of “Dr. Ron Polarik” and “TechDude.” The latter, it was found, had used the credentials of a real expert (who denied being TechDude), and had actually fabricated anomalies in the short form image. Polarik had these interminable rants one had to go through to get to the technical part, some of which IIRC had to do with the cross-hatch pattern around the border not matching cross hatches on other forms. He also claimed that the printing (or part of it) was on a plastic overlay sheet rather than directly on the security paper. People believed it, but few understood it. My eyes glazed over after the first 30 pages.

    The Magic M: I don’t really remember that type of argument,

  48. avatar
    Pete September 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Lupin: And then, there is Falcon or BSE who are fit to be tied up & locked away.

    Well, yeah, to be more complete about it:

    5. People who’ve cabbaged onto to the birther nonsense because they have psychological issues, some of them potentially serious.

  49. avatar
    Pete September 16, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: People believed it, but few understood it. My eyes glazed over after the first 30 pages.

    This was part of the whole confidence building thing. If you put out a page or two of bullsh*t, people will say you’re a nutter. If you put out 67 pages of bullsh*t (or 200 if you’re Mario Apuzzo), then you’ll find many average people whose eyes will glaze over (most of them by page 7), and they’ll believe that surely you must know what you’re talking about.

  50. avatar
    Pete September 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    And of course, if you present your bullsh*t with nice graphics, then you’ll find people who believe you know what you’re talking about just because of the nice graphics (Mara Zebest).

    And if you find someone with a recognizable name and official position/ respected profession to back you up, you’ll get quite a few average folks who will believe you just from the argument from authority.

    Even if the so-called “authority,” like Joe Arpaio, literally knows less about technology than the average third-grader.

    So, Jerome Corsi and Mara Zebest, again.

  51. avatar
    The Magic M September 17, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    Pete: If you put out 67 pages of bullsh*t (or 200 if you’re Mario Apuzzo), then you’ll find many average people whose eyes will glaze over (most of them by page 7), and they’ll believe that surely you must know what you’re talking about.

    It’s a variant of the other favourite birther MO: make up 100 false allegations – if you shoot down one, they’ll go “but there’s still 99 you can’t answer”; and even if you shoot down all of them, they go “if there weren’t something to it, there wouldn’t be so many allegations”.
    Which again is related to the Ship of Theseus paradox – even if you’ve refuted 100 claims, the impression that there still must be something left somehow lingers.

  52. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater September 17, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    The Magic M: It’s a variant of the other favourite birther MO: make up 100 false allegations – if you shoot down one, they’ll go “but there’s still 99 you can’t answer”; and even if you shoot down all of them, they go “if there weren’t something to it, there wouldn’t be so many allegations”.
    Which again is related to the Ship of Theseus paradox – even if you’ve refuted 100 claims, the impression that there still must be something left somehow lingers.

    I think Doc calls this the Worshiping the Pile theory. A big pile of dung is still a big pile of dung. Most birthers rattle off a bunch of false information they believe. By the time one gets through debunking all of it they believe everyone has forgot the first few BS claims they made. This way they can just start all over again. I’ve seen it a lot lately where I’ve had the same question asked 4 or 5 times that’s already been answered and the birther claims no one answered it.

  53. avatar
    ellen September 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    If there is anyone with knowledge of the James McClure situation of 1811, which Apuzzo claIms is proof that the children of foreigners born on US soil were naturalized, I’m sure that their comments would be welcome at:

    http://www.westernfreepress.com/2015/03/05/ted-cruz-and-natural-born-citizenship-a-belated-reply-to-mario-apuzzo/

  54. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Interestingly not THIS James McClure:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2009/10/media-resources-at-your-public-library/

    From what I know, the only reference to McClure is an anonymous article that appeared in a newspaper containing an opinion that citizen parentage is required. The comment is presented under the pseudonym “Publius” which had been used by James Madison; however, I cannot agree with attributing the comment to Madison since it directly contradicts what he definitely said elsewhere. McClure was born prior to the ratification of the Constitution. Historian George Bancroft, writing of the period prior under the Articles of Confederation, said that everyone born in the country was a natural born citizen.

    Leo Donofrio had an article here:

    https://naturalborncitizen.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-publius-enigma-newly-revealed-evidence-establishes-that-president-james-madisons-administration-required-citizen-parentage-to-qualify-native-born-persons-for-u-s-citizenship/

    ellen: If there is anyone with knowledge of the James McClure situation of 1811, which Apuzzo claIms

  55. avatar
    RanTalbott September 17, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    The Magic M: and even if you shoot down all of them, they go “if there weren’t something to it, there wouldn’t be so many allegations”.

    They like to make the mistake of expressing that as “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Which I use as an opportunity to point out that the smoke is coming from birthers’ pants. 😉

    I don’t think the Ship of Theseus is apt here, because there was never a coherent structure, and the “planks” keep getting replaced with pieces that are differently-shaped, and often made of different materials. The mention of “Worshipping the Pile” suggests the parable of the boy who enthusiastically digs through the pile of horse manure, because he’s convinced it means there has to be a pony in it.

  56. avatar
    gorefan September 17, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: James McClure:

    We had a discussion about McClure in the comments here:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2015/02/the-english-common-law-and-the-american-revolution/

    ;

  57. avatar
    The Magic M September 18, 2015 at 3:40 am #

    RanTalbott: I don’t think the Ship of Theseus is apt here, because there was never a coherent structure, and the “planks” keep getting replaced with pieces that are differently-shaped, and often made of different materials.

    I was thinking of it as one abstraction level higher, where birthers believe the original structure (“many things about Obama are not right”) still stands even when all of its components have been dismantled (refuted).
    Think of the SoT variant where grains are taken off a heap until none is left; when does the heap stop being a heap? For the birthers, the heap is still there even when all grains are gone.

  58. avatar
    Yoda September 19, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    I disagree with the headline, Birthers are going to hell.

  59. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG September 20, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Yoda:
    I disagree with the headline, Birthers are going to hell.

    “But we hated all the right people!”

  60. avatar
    Northland10 September 21, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    Yoda:
    I disagree with the headline, Birthers are going to hell.

    I submit they are already there. It was an short trip as they constructed the location all by themselves.