Poll: 1 in 10 Americans Think Obama a Muslim

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ten percent of American voters believe Sen. Barack Obama is Muslim, despite the presidential candidate's frequent descriptions of his Christian faith and a high-profile flap over his former pastor.

Depressing--read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

Posted March 31, 2008 at 6:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Death Bredon wrote:

I am not so surprised that more people do not think he is Islamic, as he actually dropped his school-day nickname “Barry” for Barak when he entered politics—as if he wants people to think that he (Barak Hussein Obama) is Muslim!

March 31, 7:36 pm | [comment link]
2. Philip Snyder wrote:

I’ve often wondered if it would be so bad to required a “current events” quiz or some such quiz of basic knowledge before allowing people to vote.  Of course, that is against the law and would probably be unconstitutional, but still news items like this make me think it is not a bad idea.

Phil Snyder

March 31, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
3. Sidney wrote:


Here’s a constitutional way of doing it.  Simply don’t allow mail-in ballots - make people vote on Election Day, and get rid of things like motor-voter.  Force people to register to vote by finding out where City Hall is and go there, make them find out where their polling place is, and force them to be aware of on what days elections occur.  Cull out the people who aren’t paying attention enough or don’t care enough who fail to or can’t do these things.  I’m guessing that most people who can handle them will be aware that Obama is Christian.

March 31, 8:03 pm | [comment link]
4. Chris Hathaway wrote:

How about we require that voters are first citizens, and then require that they pass the same test that new citizens have to pass? Why should the stupid and uninformed have the right to vote?

March 31, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
5. Eclipse wrote:

This is just sad.  We are an information driven society too lazy to get the information.

And we WONDER why the founding fathers made this a representative form of government?

March 31, 8:22 pm | [comment link]
6. Ross wrote:

#3 Sidney:

There are people with compelling excuses for not being able to make it to their polling place on election day.  Deployed military personnel, for one.

March 31, 8:52 pm | [comment link]
7. TomRightmyer wrote:

North Carolina has “no excuse” early voting two weeks before the election. The votes are kept until election day and then counted. I am an election judge in another precinct from the one where I live and early voting is a great convenience for me. Last election about ten percent of the voters voted early and the number increases with each election.

March 31, 9:07 pm | [comment link]
8. Alice Linsley wrote:

Obama’s father and step-father are Muslims so I’m not surprised that people think that he is too.

March 31, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
9. Sidney wrote:


Good point, of course.  I didn’t mean to ditch all absentee balloting, but the trends toward people voting whenever, wherever are not good.

March 31, 10:40 pm | [comment link]
10. Sarah1 wrote:

Death Bredon—one of the coolest blog names I’ve ever seen.


Harriet Vane

March 31, 11:11 pm | [comment link]
11. Greg Griffith wrote:

That’s nothing. 4 in 10 think he’s an unreconstructed socialist!

March 31, 11:18 pm | [comment link]
12. Bill Matz wrote:

Not surprising. Probably over 50% of Americans also believe the myth that we did not find WMDs in Iraq (hint:sarin).

I’m with Phil on this. In CA they did a language study of the state ballot propositions and found that it took the equivalent of a Master’s in English to understand them. So people are voting based on sound bites and other forms of influence rather than actual knowledge of issues/subject matter (and candidates?). Of course, while literacy tests have a clear, logical appeal, their horrible history of misuse as a means of disenfranchising minorities renders them unusable.

Expanding on #3. some states allow same-day registration and voting. This is just an invitation to fraud. The Milwaukee D.A. is currently going forward on fraudulent voting charges against about a dozen folks who were all part of one party’s campaign. (Some other members of the same campaign were convicted of felonies for vandalizing vehicles of the other party.)

A related thought: given that it is easier to control/influence ignorant voters, it should be instructive to note who supports “dumbing down” voter requirements.

March 31, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
13. Laocoon wrote:

As a college prof, I’m tempted to pull my hair out when I ask my students about important news or things every American should know, like simple constitutional facts or basic civics.  We may be very clever, but it seems we don’t know much.  One way I try to fight this is by including questions on current events in their weekly quizzes.  I tell them anything found in reputable news sources is fair game for their weekly quizzes.  A number have had to ask me where one gets news.  Aargh.  This is at a fairly selective school.

I had wondered what effect Jeremiah Wright would have on Obama’s campaign; evidently one in ten have no idea Obama even has a pastor.

March 31, 11:34 pm | [comment link]
14. Katherine wrote:

But Greg, #11, Obama is a socialist, whereas he’s not a Muslim. 

Shall we blame Obama?  After all, huge numbers of people, including many mainstream journalists, blame Bush for saying that Saddam Hussein was directly connected to the 9/11 plot although he never said so.

April 1, 2:45 am | [comment link]
15. William Witt wrote:
4 in 10 think he’s an unreconstructed socialist!4 in 10 think he’s an unreconstructed socialist!

Even more amazing, a good many Americans actually believe that there are unreconstructed socialists in American politics these days, when free market capitalism is the default economic position among both Democrats and Republicans—and pretty much always has been.

April 1, 8:24 am | [comment link]
16. Adam 12 wrote:

With so many Americans uninformed about Obama it always makes me feel that “go and Vote” campaigns serve no one. Let us hope that the segment that doesn’t vote is the same segment that is willfully uninformed.

April 1, 8:26 am | [comment link]
17. episcoanglican wrote:

Well, just because he’s a Christian, does that necessarily imply that he isn’t also a Muslim? I mean, speaking as an Episcopalian….

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

April 1, 9:06 am | [comment link]
18. NWOhio Anglican wrote:

“Who’s Colin Powell? Is he black?”

I overheard this from a college student at Washington University, in 1991 (!!!).

April 1, 9:45 am | [comment link]
19. Katherine wrote:

Okay, Dr. Witt, I concede that Obama, Clinton, et al., are not socialists as were Trotsky, Lenin, et al.  “Liberals” tend towards collectivist and governmental solutions, whereas “conservatives” tend towards individualist and private-entity solutions.  Is that better?

April 1, 9:57 am | [comment link]
20. Chris Molter wrote:

Nah, if he were a practicing Muslim, he’d probably not be quite so adamant about the sacrament of abortion..

April 1, 10:02 am | [comment link]
21. Chris Hathaway wrote:

William, I am curious how you define “free market capitalism”.  How does all the regulations imposed upon businesses fit into that. How do all the calls, especially from the Democrats, for a “windfall profits” tax against the oil companies or the calls for penalties against price “gauging”? I put those terms in quotation marks because there is no clear definition of them. They are terms used to raise resentment against big business, and small businesses, and can only survive in a climate in which profit making, the essence of free enterprise, is held in suspicion and calls to “reign it in” are appealing.

April 1, 10:25 am | [comment link]
22. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Okay, people: Simple statistics regarding the Gaussian (bell-curve) distribution of intelligence—- one-sigma variation off the median of 100, that is IQs of 90 to 110 covers about 68% of the population. Consequently about 16% are to be found south of 90. In fact you’ll find about 5% struggling along with less than 80 (two-sigma).

The sorts of numbers reported in that survey are completely unsurprising, and should not be any cause for dismay.

On the other hand, consider that 75% of all economists (most of whom are presumably above the other end of two-sigma at 120+) are consistently incapable of forecasting the direction of interest rates (up or down) six months ahead. Not the magnitude of the change, the direction.

If they had the simple humility to flip a coin they would double their success rate. Intelligent does not necessarily mean “smart.” Nor vice versa.

April 1, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
23. John Wilkins wrote:

#19 Katherine, unfortunately, that is just not true, unfortunately.  “collectivist” is nowhere in the liberal tradition.  I find it amusing that you think Obama is a socialist when is adviser is a professor at the University of Chicago Economics department.  Obama may think that markets exist to help people, rather than people exist to make the free market true, but given his associations, painting him as a “socialist” is simply… false.  He does, however, know that greed and envy corrode the common good. 

Katherine, although plenty of Democrats have believed that the government, elected by the people, should help the people, socialism and liberalism have never been the same set.  In fact, historically, it is liberals who have defended the free market.  They have also defended the right of people to regulate the behavior of those who, as they are sinners, would use the free market to pillage, exploit, and dehumanize workers. 

Liberalism has always been anti-marxist.  Some may believe in regulation because they think collectives (or, say, corporations) are dangerous to individuals - and individuals can’t always fight big institutions.  Other liberals believe in “possessive individualism.”  But the first people communists get rid of, are the liberals.  I can give you plenty of historical examples, beginning with the Bolsheviks, moving to the Spanish Civil War and then to south East Asia. 

Yes - because liberalism is “agnostic” about cultural claims, it gets mixed in with Marxism.  In fact, a liberal can “choose” to be a conservative, because historically conservatives place a stronger role for tradition, social status, and birthright, wherease liberals place individual conscience above tradition, society, and birthright.

But a couple notes:  if you want to talk about a “collectivists” who change things, you’ll have to help me figure out the difference between a corporation and a “collective.”  both seem, empirically, to operate similarly.  One harnesses greed, and the other harnesses a different sort of passion.

Second, Augustine defended the state because private individuals - alas- are subject to Human sin.  Without some regulation, groups of people will exploit others.  Disagree?  Doesn’t the church itself regulate people? 

Last, there are plenty of other sorts of market views:  Henry George, The Catholic Church (distributivism), and Keynes, all had different ways of looking at the market.  All of which seem to have a more accurate understanding of incentives and sin than the way most people understand the “free” market, which in our case means socialism for the rich, while the rest of us compete.

April 1, 1:22 pm | [comment link]
24. Andrew717 wrote:

While “collectivist” may not be in the liberal tradition (in the European sense of the word) it is certainly in the Leftist tradition.  Individual freedom and the Left cannot coexist, if one is free one may make different choices than our Leftist masters and screw up the planned economy and planned outcomes.  And John, surely you are intelligent enough to tell the difference between a corporation creating wealth through market competition and a State seizing wealth through armed force?

April 1, 1:48 pm | [comment link]
25. Katherine wrote:

John, I don’t know what world you’re living in, but it isn’t this one.  Today’s “conservatives” in economic terms are closer to classic “liberalism” than any of today’s “liberals.”

If you want to enlarge your perspective, even if you don’t agree, you should read Jonah Godlberg’s “Liberal Fascism.”  It’s on the NY Times best-seller list.  Since I live abroad, I have not myself read it, but I have read reviews and summaries.  You might be surprised by what you learn there.

April 1, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
26. Chris Hathaway wrote:

John doesn’t realize, or refuses to admit, that “Liberals” today are not liberal as that term indicated a century ago. Those who remained classically liberal soon called themselves Conservatives, because they were conserving the Liberal tradition, while other liberals became progressives or socialists and attached the name of Liberal to their new creeds. There is nothing Liberal about increasing the power of the State over the individual “for his own good”. That kind of thinking fits perfectly with every enlghtened despots view. George III would have seen it as the natural use of State authority to rule for the common good.

April 1, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
27. John Wilkins wrote:

“individual freedom and the Left cannot coexist.”

I suppose if you are using Stalinist USSR as your main example, you’re probably right.  But individual freedom and the right (say, Chile) doesn’t have a great record either.  But if you are talking with Swedes or the French, they seem to enjoy their freedom quite a bit.  If leftists means a variation of Jacobin sensibilities, well, you’re absolutely right.  But if, by the left, we mean civil rights, an end to child labor laws, and the GI bill (which is - state sponsored), or public education, Social Security, or funding of police, firefighters by the state, then it seems that individual freedom requires states spending.  Simply because rights and freedom require protection.  My view is that people are sinners and will thus try to take away other people’s rights through being bullies.  Corporations and individuals do this.  And they often get away with it.  So people have a right to organize for transparency and fairness.  Some call this sort of organization, “unions.” And they gave us the week-end. 

I would also add - Which left?  The anarchist left?  the Democratic Socialist Left?  The Trotskyist left?  If you examine the Bolshevik revolution, you might note that there were a number of different leftists competing.  The civil rights left?  The left that fought for an end to child labor laws?  But I do concede your point, liberals and leftists have opposed the exploitation of workers, and this did inhibit the freedom of businessmen.  Fortunately, we are - in theory - a republic and not an oligarchy. 

I suppose if I thought that the state was an institution that just seized wealth, I would agree, but… I am a citizen and I care about this country and am glad that it is a republic.  Taxes, for me, are dues for being here.  I’m thankful I’m an American and pay them.  They give me roads, which are used by businesses and myself.  They pay for schools, from which businesses hire.  The state pays businesses to build aircraft carriers.  The state also pays for an independent judiciary that allows me to take on businesses, like Enron or MCI or Bear Stearns, if they are corrupt.  Granted, we’re in a country where we don’t get much for our taxes: it seems to go more towards war profiteers who are enjoying the “privatization” of the military and the lack of regulation.  I don’t blame these businesses, of course.  It’s just business, and lots of people think that businesses are always honest.  My own view is that all institutions are fallen. 

I’m not sure I think Goldberg is the best historian on liberalism.  I think he probably writes for a popular audience.  Liberal fascism is… an oxymoron. 

Statistically, government grew in Republican administrations rather than Democratic administrations.  But this is because, while income decreased, spending continued to decrease. 

To clarify, states have different powers.  Most liberals are, actually, wary about the state - including progressives.  Progressives, for example, would like to curtail state authority in the bedroom or invading privacy.  Historically, they did seek to encourage state power to discourage, say, housing covenants (say, the Fair Housing Act).  Part of this is because individuals may sin. 

States also work on behalf of corporations.  In fact, it seems that the state does a pretty good job of opening markets in other countries (except, perhaps, Cuba).  It often sides with certain sorts of businesses over others.  It grabs wealth from the middle class and uses it to subsidize the risks of the wealthy. 

Christopher hathaway mentions something of which I am ...  aware.  But then, why are we using those terms anyway?  “Liberals” who became “progressives” or “socialists” are probably those who are skeptical of ALL institutions that cannot be held accountable.  And of course, there are a few who understand that people who are truly conservative would, in fact, seem very liberal - as they want to promote government policies that keep the family and local economies intact.  Modern “conservatives” would like to see jobs in mainstreet America be exported across the globe. 

Although perhaps liberals trust the power of citizens to band together to make the country a better place.  Is that also conservative?

April 1, 5:19 pm | [comment link]
28. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Modern “conservatives” would like to see jobs in mainstreet America be exported across the globe. 

I don’t know a single conservative who would “like” that. They just don’t see economic and political attempts to stop it as being productive. Rather, they can be counterproductive. The primarry economic difference between conservatives and liberals, accepting the standard misuse of the calssical labels, is generally that conservatives believe that the economy runs best by itself and that we are unable to fully know the consaequences of every attempt to control it, while liberals tend to believe that they can effect the control on the economy they seek. We conservatives believe that we are more able to make things worse than better by manipulating the economy, so for us the better approach is to treat the negative symptoms. If milk becomes expensive, find a way to help the poor buy milk. Don’t implement price controls which might wind up creating a milk shortage, etc.

April 1, 8:47 pm | [comment link]
29. Katherine wrote:

John, your thoughts wander here and there across the historical landscape in ways I can’t entirely follow.  When I can follow them, I think you misunderstand and misstate.

You say, “Liberal fascism is… an oxymoron.”  Goldberg’s thesis, supported by extensive quotations from reliable collections of speeches and writings, is that the great minds of the “liberal” or “progressive” movement of the 19th/20th centuries had strong connections to fascists and fascism.  They admired it and extolled its virtues.  This is in the same vein in which many admired the Communist experiment and thought it was the wave of the future.  Goldberg’s title, “Liberal Fascism,” is H.G. Wells’ self-description of his political philosophy.

April 2, 2:30 am | [comment link]
30. John Wilkins wrote:

Historically, Katherine, if this is Goldberg’s thesis, then there is no reason for me to read the book.  He’s wrong, flatly.  Unless you define fascism as collectivist by nature.  Fascism is a combination of a few things:  it requires:  militarism; the organic state (almost its divinization); and - perhaps this is what he means by “liberal” - an alliance with corporations.  This is what it was empirically.  It’s well known that the Nazis used the word “socialist” essentially as a way to siphon off votes from the Democratic Socialists - especially rural farmers. 

If Goldberg is right than most conservatives are… fascists:  something I don’t believe.  Because classical conservatism (a theory I have much respect for), believes that the community - and relationships - are important.  It extols character and virtue above rights and individualism. 

Second, fascists have never, historically, placed much value on tolerance and individuality - two of the most important aspects of liberal thought. 

Of course, given the National Review’s history of effusive support of Franco and their… dismissiveness of the trial against Eichmann, they have always seemed a bit ... relaxed about fascism to me.  So perhaps that means that Goldberg is, himself… a liberal.

April 2, 5:33 pm | [comment link]
31. Harvey wrote:

Well said, you raise some good points.  There is one question I raise for a lot of people you and I have spent some time with on the Titusnine network.  Where in the US Constitution is there a religious qualification??  I have asked this question repeatedly; no answer has been made yet.

April 2, 11:54 pm | [comment link]
32. rob k wrote:

The Pope’s Centissimus Annus of 1991 is the clearest statement of the relationship between economic affairs and government & society.  Capitalism IS the best way of ordering economic affairs, but unless it is grounded in the Chirstian idea of the origin and nature of man, it can have effects as evil as those of Marxism or Fascism.  A Conservative need not have a reflexive animus towards “big government”.

April 3, 12:38 am | [comment link]
33. Katherine wrote:

John, as usual your views and mine are so different that there is no possibility of agreement, sadly, on much of anything.  “Fascism” was an intellectual movement of which Hitler took political advantage.  Goldberg’s thesis treats the larger intellectual movement.  Nobody, not I, not Goldberg, is calling today’s liberals Nazis, just as nobody should associate today’s conservatives with Nazis.  The fascists, not necessarily the dictators who took the name, were socialists and elitists who took the “right wing” of the socialist movement; that is, unlike the left wing, which was international communism, they were in favor of national socialism.  Hence the name “right wing” which had nothing whatever to do with today’s American political right.

Harvey, there is no religious qualification for office.  However, individual voters can make decisions on any terms they choose.

April 3, 2:08 am | [comment link]
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