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    Did Basic Polling Interpretation Errors Drive Obama To Mishandle The Birth Certificate Issue?

    Did Basic Polling Interpretation Errors Drive Obama To Mishandle The Birth Certificate Issue?

    by Matthew Knee

    I have generally believed that Obama did not release his birth certificate because he thought that the birther issue made some of his opponents look foolish. So long as the birther issue was politically beneficial, there was no reason to put it to rest.

    But, true conspiracy theorists notwithstanding, now he has. Why? That is the question of the day. Does he fear Trump qua Trump? Doubtful. Trump’s polling is pretty dismal at this juncture. It’s Palin dismal (Don’t get me wrong, I like Sarah Palin, but bad numbers are bad numbers). Did he think the public was starting to buy the birther line in a way that was particularly harmful to him? Perhaps.

    If so, he may have been driven to a political blunder by a collection of basic errors in polling interpretation. As Nate Silver points out, while Gallup found that only 38% of Americans believe Obama was definitely born in the US, only 43% of Americans think Trump (about whom there is no active birther movement) was definitely born in the US.

    A number of issues may be artificially inflating this high degree of uncertainty. First of all, when people are asked questions about political figures, the act of asking the question is itself a suggestion that a meaningful controversy exists about the subject. Second, people are hesitant to express absolute certainty, especially about matters they know little about or do not regularly concern themselves with. Finally, people also don’t always answer the question the pollster thinks they are asking, especially when they know few actual facts about the issue in question. Polling non-obvious facts about controversial people will often result in respondents simply taking the opportunity to express positive or negative affect towards the person in question.

    The number of Americans who think Obama was definitely born abroad (24%) is significantly greater than the number who think Trump was born abroad (7%), but it seems unlikely that once the sources of inflation are removed, there are all that many Americans left who are serious birthers and are the sort of people who would ever consider voting for Obama anyway.

    Taken together, these theoretical flaws and Gallup’s “Trump birther” pseudo-control question raise significant doubts as to the threat posed to Obama by birtherism. Had Obama waited until the election, he may have been able to strike a serious blow against his opponent and other Republicans by shooting down this conspiracy in a spectacular fashion, but instead, he did us a great favor by squandering this advantage.


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    The Ghost | April 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Trump was no birther but he is a savy negotiator and he saw an clear opening in asking the simple question of why is he hiding the birth certificate if he's got nothing to hide …
    Releasing the certificate doesn't fix the problem that Trump was able to create in the minds of many which was why is he hiding it … It also brings Obama down to earth, he loses his mystery …
    If he releases his transcripts he risks losing the genius/smart label and that he cannot afford to do so I don't expect him to release those … but Trump will say the same thing … if he has nothing to hide why is he hiding them …

    Put the Birth document released by the White house today (the pdf released directly from the White House)into Adobe Illustrator… 22 edits were made. A clean scan should have zero !!!!! What a bunch of amateurs … And don't forget about Jus sanguinis and Natural Born Citizenship, incarcerated Dr. Terry Lakin and the curious CT. social security number.

    Let's see Trump's next move. Things should get clearer soon RE Trump and this issue…

    Maybe polls aren't what he's looking at — could Obama be preparing the ground for the release of Corsi's book?

    Nonsense. Obama played this brilliantly for its maximum effect in painting people opposed to his actions and policies as just a bunch of whackos. And Trump, thinking only of how to maximize attention to himself, got his publicity and now looks like a fool and a clown.

    Meanwhile, the birther disease lives on, like a bloodsucking parasite. At the top of these comments, we see one nutcase clinging to the ludicrous idea that people born with a right to another citizenship in addition to American must choose and renounce others (if so, although I was born in New Haven, CT, I am unwittingly an Irish citizen since Eire eagerly confers citizenship on any willing taker who, like me, had a mother from Ireland).

    Elsewhere, other nuts have taken to calling the released certificate a fraud because the current website for the hospital named on the documenf neglects in its brief two paragraph description to mention that one of its legacy institutions went through a name change before merging with the other. Applying this sort of flimsy non-research to my case, one would be hard-pressed to find out anything about the hospital where I was born, Grace Hospital. It was ine of many threads woven together to form today's Yale-New Haven Medical Center.

    Obama is vulnerable. He can be beaten on the issues of a lagging economy, runaway spending, meekness in foreigh policies, incompetence and Obamacare. Every bit of energy expended on crazy demands for birth certificates, college grades and old passports is a total, crying waste that enabled Obama to persuade swing voters that, as much as they think he is a failure, the alternative is a bunch of whackos.

    jakee308 | April 28, 2011 at 9:23 am

    1st off, why hasn't anyone made more of the fact that a natural born citizen has to have 2 U.S. citizens as parents? Am I correct in that?

    As to his release of the BC, I think his handlers were more worried about the bills in many states being passed that would require vetting all pres. candidates eligibility before being allowed on their ballots. The Const. gives states the right to set their own rules on voting and voter quals. — he can't fight them all. With the BC out there, the hope is that the pressure on the state reps to pass these laws will lessen.

    I don't think that will happen.

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