Somehow the number of Americans who believe the president is a Muslim—incorrectly, obviously— has increased sharply since his inauguration. A new Pew survey shows 20 percent of the nation incorrectly thinks Obama is a Muslim. Only 34 percent of those polled correctly identified the president as a Christian, down from nearly half when he took office. The results of the survey—which was conducted from interviews before Obama’s Friday-night comments about the proposed ground zero mosque — were met with concern by members of the administration, with faith adviser Joshua DuBois blaming “misinformation campaigns.”
Digging into the numbers, it’s clear that as in most of American politics, the responses were very different for Democrats and Republicans. Nearly a third of Republicans believe Obama is Muslim, from 17 percent in March, 2009. Eighteen percent of independents agreed, an 8-point increase, as did 10 percent of Democrats, up 3 points.
Although there are across-the-board increases, the Republican spike is the most striking. There has been a constant drumbeat of Muslim rumors ever since the candidate with the middle name “Hussein” came onto the scene, but it’s not like new “evidence” has emerged in the last 18 months. That suggests that what’s really happening is that the large percentage of Americans who strongly dislike Obama’s policies— from the stimulus to healthcare reform and beyond — are channeling their anger by casting the President as part of a religious faith that many are deeply uncomfortable with.
Just imagine what a poll taken after Obama’s semi-defense of the ground zero mosque will show.