That Pew Survey, Cont’d

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

Apparently, according to a new survey, a substantial number of Americans think President Obama is either foreign-born or Muslim. As Ross Douthat pointed out several weeks ago, these findings should not surprise anyone. Surveys have long reported that Americans “don’t know . . . basic facts about their country and the world.” Up to ten percent of the public is unaware that Hawaii is part of the United States — perhaps these same folks heard that the president was born in Honolulu and drew their own conclusions.

But the administration is pushing back. According to the New York Times, a Christian pastor telephoned a reporter at the behest of the White House and declared, “I must say, never in the history of modern-day presidential politics has a president confessed his faith in the Lord, and folks basically call him a liar.”

The pastor is mistaken. In 1984, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro said that President Reagan “walks around calling himself a good Christian but I don’t for one minute believe it, because the policies are so terribly unfair.”

John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.