Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama is Still a Muslim

While messing with 2012 election data I visited an old friend, the question that asks respondents the religion of Barack Obama. I've published research on the topic, been quoted by major news orgs on it, such as this NYTimes piece. So I like to revisit it when time allows.

In the 2012 election, you'll be happy to know, misinformation thrives. Obama is Muslim, says 23.1 percent of U.S. adults in a national survey. But about a face-to-face versus a web-based survey? Respondents were randomly assigned to get one or the other. I'd expect in the F2F version, you might see fewer kooky responses. Turns out, I'm right.
  • F2F: 19.9 percent say he's Muslim
  • Web: 24.7 percent say he's Muslim
Five percentage points. That's probably statistically significant, if I took the time to test it. But it gets better. Among the choices was "not religious" as a description of Obama.
  •  F2F: 9.2 percent
  • Web: 16.8 percent
Interesting, except there's this -- "don't knows" on this question are significantly greater on the face-to-face version (29.5 percent) than the web-based version (3.6 percent) of the same question. I don't know quite what to make of this, and it's difficult to say whether the survey mode made any real difference given this odd "don't know" distribution. Perhaps people were uncomfortable with the question face-to-face and mumbled a "I dunno" more often, deflating the F2F numbers above. That's a reasonable hypothesis and actually testable by seeing how often they did or did not respond similar questions.

Maybe it's time for me to do another "Obama is a Muslim" study after all.

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