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Monday, May 26, 2008

American Ignorance Not Atypical

I like this new post from Ben Smith. It speaks for itself.

Jonathan Martin and I wrote last week about the deep, viral spread of a variety of myths about Obama's beliefs and his behavior.

And indeed, according to Pew (.pdf), about 10% of Americans believe Obama's a Muslim; other surveys have found higher numbers.

One relevant piece of context: large minorities of Americans consistently say they hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly alienated from one party or the other.

For instance:

22% believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
30% believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
23% believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.
18% believe the sun revolves around the earth.

What this means: Obama may well be elected president with a substantial minority of the citizens despising him, and convinced that his beliefs are irreconciliably foreign to theirs. Which, after all, is the current state of affairs. It's only that the people who believe those things about Bush and the people who believe those things about Obama live in different parts of the country.