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.
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.