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Alarming Number of Americans Now Believe Obama Is a Muslim

Results of a new poll from the Pew Research Center show that an alarming amount of conservative Republicans (34 percent) and Independents (18 percent) now believe Obama is a Muslim. The numbers represent a sharp uptick in the misconception since 2009, when conjectures were more modest (18 pecent and 10 percent, respectively). Since the poll was conducted before Obama spoke out on the planned construction of a Muslim community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero, it's a safe bet that things would look even more ridiculous now, were another study to be conducted. It's not surprising that the increasing idiocy about Obama's religion occurred predominantly among his opponents. What is downright disturbing though is the fact that Democrats are swallowing some of the hot air, too:
There has been little change in the number of Democrats who say Obama is a Muslim, but fewer Democrats today say he is a Christian (down nine points since 2009).
That decrease for Democrats yanks the number down to 46 percent -- less than half. If you're wondering how everyone suddenly learned about Obama's Big Secret, look no farther than your television screen: Of the 60 percent of respondents who said "the media" shaped their opinion, 16 percent said TV was the most instrumental vessel. Any guesses on which news channel might have been instrumental in disseminating this info? Anyone? Another 11 percent said they were able to determine the president's religion simply from his "words and behavior." All of this nonsense points to a couple of agonizingly clear conclusions: 1. Cognitive dissonance -- that is, the practice of shaping one's reality to fit one's pre-existing conclusions, rather than allowing conclusions to correspond to reality -- is raging with a sort of rabid force among Republicans. The very fact that perceptions about Obama's religion can change (without Obama doing anything at all) indicates that the Right will create beliefs, then go from there; the facts don't matter. 2. There's a hazard to jumping to the president's defense on this one. If progressives eagerly dispel claims that Obama is a Muslim, it could seem like a sort of de facto distancing tactic from Muslims in general -- a very bad move in the midst of this whole Cordoba House controversy. In other words, to argue "Of course he's not one of thosepeople" implies that there is something unsavory about those people (i.e. Muslims) in the first place. On the other hand, to keep silent on the issue is to be complicit in its falseness; it is to allow an incendiary misconception to dominate discourse. There's really no easy way out of this one.