Regional appeal

REGIONAL APPEAL…. We talked on Friday about the latest Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos on the Birthers’ conspiracy theory, and the fact that the madness had gained very little traction outside the South. Specifically, while voters in the Northeast, West, and Midwest dismiss the debunked allegation overwhelmingly, 23% of Southerners believe President Obama was born outside the U.S., and an additional 30% aren’t sure.

Dave Weigel went a little further, though, and took a closer look at the results from the region that’s outside the norm. After receiving additional details from the pollster, Weigel found that African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities in the South overwhelmingly reject the nonsense in large numbers, just like the national mainstream. But the region fared poorly overall because of Southern whites who “dragged down the average.”

So what proportion of Southern whites doubt that Obama is an American citizen? While Ali did not release the racial breakdowns for the South, and cautioned that the margin of error in the smaller sample of 720 people would be larger than the national margin of error (2 percent), the proportion of white Southern voters with doubts about their president’s citizenship may be higher than 70 percent. More than 30 percent of the people polled in the South were non-white, and very few of them told pollsters that they had questions about Obama’s citizenship. In order for white voters to drive the South’s “don’t know” number to 30 percent and it’s “born outside the United States” number to 23 percent, as many as three-quarters of Southern whites told pollsters that they didn’t know where Obama was born.

One thing to keep in mind, if only a quarter or a fifth of white Southerners believe Obama was born in the United States, that’s more than voted for him last year in some states. Obama won 14 percent of the white vote in Louisiana, 14 percent in Mississippi, and 10 percent in Alabama.

Matt Yglesias added, “I think Republicans have basically given up on the battle of trying to win more Hispanics over to their side. Which leaves them with the medium-term objective of trying to get non-southern whites to act more like southern whites.”

Postscript: By the way, Brendan Nyhan also had a good related item the other day, comparing partisan confusion on the president’s birthplace with partisan confusion on the president’s faith tradition.