Those in the media and the political classes were all aflutter about the last poll from Pew Research on how many Americans believe that Obama is in fact a Muslim. Reactions have ranged from sneering to rude. Few however have put the numbers in actual context.
While almost a quarter of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, 18% its not as high as some other things. Pew states the following about their poll.
“A new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama's religion is.”
It is key to note that the poll was taken before the entire Ground Zero Mosque controversy kicked into high gear. It was taken before Americans knew Obama’s thoughts on the building of a mosque in such a sensitive area.
Joshua Dubois, the White House’s “faith advisor” blamed Obama’s political opponents rather than his position on various issues of religion. He told the Washington Post the following.
“”While the president has been diligent and personally committed to his own Christian faith, there's certainly folks who are intent on spreading falsehoods about the president and his values and beliefs.”
Time has a poll out that was taken after the Mosque row erupted. It came back with an even higher percentage who believe to be Muslim than the Pew Study, 24%. Almost one quarter of Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim, up from one fifth.
“In all, just 47% of respondents believe Obama is a Christian; 24% declined to respond to the question or said they were unsure, and 5% believe he is neither Christian nor Muslim.”
To put it all in context however it useful to look at what else a similar percentage of Americans believe. CBS commissioned a poll back 2006 on ghosts and found a full 22% of Americans believe they have seen or felt a ghost while a 48% believe ghosts exist.
A poll by CNN found that 37% of Americans polled believed that aliens have contacted the US government.
“Sixty-four percent of the respondents said that aliens have contacted humans, half said they've abducted humans, and 37 percent said they have contacted the U.S. government. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.”
While the media and the chattering classes will be interested to see how this poll changes if it is taken in the current Ground Zero Mosque controversy, it will probably interest few others. As the other polls prove, its easy to find things that at least some Americans believe.