The Rachel Maddow Show got an exclusive look last night at the new, national poll from Public Policy Polling, which offered some tidbits that are worth appreciating in detail.
While top-line results are usually the most important takeaway from polls like these, that’s only part of what’s amazing about these new results. Consider this excerpt from the latest PPP report:
…51% [of Republican voters] overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. 54% think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29% grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That’s less than the 40% who think Canadian born Ted Cruz was born in the United States.
Let that one roll around in your head for a moment. Nearly seven years into the Obama presidency, less a third of Republican voters believe the president was born in the United States. A significantly higher percentage believe Ted Cruz was born in the U.S – and he wasn’t.
Sometimes, when it comes to chronic breakdowns in the political process, the problem is with Republicans in Congress, who are too often an obstacle to good governance – they’re opposed to compromise, uninterested in policy outcomes, more reflexively partisan, etc. – in ways the American mainstream is not.
But once in a while, it’s worth holding Republican voters themselves responsible. This is one of those times. I’m sure partisan tribalism plays some role in misguided attitudes, but there’s no excuse for willful ignorance on this scale.
Indeed, the same PPP survey asked Republican respondents whether President Obama is a Christian (he is). A 54% majority of GOP voters said the president is not a Christian, while 32% aren’t sure. In other words, even now, a whopping 86% of rank-and-file Republicans are skeptical of the president’s faith.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a prominent GOP presidential candidate, recently said he’s still unsure about Obama’s religious beliefs, too. To understand why a candidate for national office would say something so foolish, look no further than the attitudes of his party’s base.
In fact, Walker and his rivals are no doubt aware of the degree to which these bizarre GOP attitudes are driving Donald Trump’s support: “66% of Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim … 61% think Obama was not born in the United States … And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship.”
For more, including some charts included on last night’s show, check out this piece from my colleague Will Femia, as well as last night’s segment, which is also available in its entirety online.