There is not a shred of truth to the rumor that President Obama is not really an American citizen, or that he’s secretly a Muslim. And yet the stories won’t die, because people keep repeating them and unscrupulous politicians are happy to capitalize on them.
Those who want to fan the flames sometimes try the grudging acceptance trick. It goes like this: “Well, if Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, then I have to take him at his word.” Rick Santorum pulled that one last month. After questioning Mr. Obama’s Christianity, he said: “I wasn’t suggesting the President’s not a Christian. I accept the fact that the president’s a Christian.” How very generous of him.
And yet, I was a bit surprised to see a PPP poll showing that 45 percent of Alabama Republicans think Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and only 14 percent know that he’s actually a Christian. In Mississippi, the same poll showed that a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, believe the Muslim lie.
While there’s no question that far too many people buy into this propaganda, I’m not ready to condemn a majority of Mississippians based on this survey. PPP is a partisan organization that conducts automated surveys. That means it’s not clear who answered the questions and whether the sample is statistically representative.
Current law prohibits automated dialers from calling cellphones. So PPP is likely missing a big chunk of the population. (The latest research shows that about 25 percent to 31 percent of people now use cellphones exclusively.)
My point is that not all survey organizations are created equal, and it’s worth keeping that in mind when you come across polling data in news articles.