Friday, April 8, 2011

The Donald's Birthing Exercise

Yesterday I wrote, like so many others, about Donald Trump's birthing exercise.  You know the one, whether Barack Obama was born in the U.S. (yes, he was, if you consider Hawaii in the U.S.).  You can go to the previous post for details.  But I noticed today a new poll is out on the issue, the one finding a higher percentage of those who doubt Obama's U.S. citizenship.  First, a caveat -- it's a Fox News poll -- but let's assume the best.  According to the poll, 24 percent of Americans say Obama was not born in the U.S.

That's one-in-four of American adults doubting Obama's citizenship and, by extension, the constitutionality of his presidency. About two-thirds say Obama is a citizen.  Ten percent are unsure.

It goes without saying, though I'll say it, that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or Independents to believe Obama was born elsewhere (37 percent).  They're also a lot more likely to be unsure (16 percent).  In other words, if you add the "elsewhere" and "unsure" groups together, you get well over half of Republicans (53 percent) doubting Obama was born in the U.S.  That qualifies as a wow as we gear up for the 2012 election cycle.

Clearly the significant difference seen between Republicans and either Democrats or Independents can be explained through motivational reasoning.  Simply put, we tend to believe what we want to believe -- and we will discount that which doesn't fit our predispositions.  Partisanship, it seems, wins out over accuracy.  A lot of this is subconscious and I used the theory in some published research to explain why people believe Obama is Muslim despite all evidence to the contrary.  And here's the twist ... corrections by the media of some mistake actually push the most partisan to even more strongly cling to inaccurate beliefs.  In other words, with some folks, you just can't win.

So often, instead of what people know, we should ask: what people prefer to know.

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