It’s surely not what the leader of the free world wants for his birthday. But, for a stubborn group of Americans, conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace are the gifts that keep on giving. […]

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama’s citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.

Broken down by party, 85% of Democrats believe the president was definitely or probably born in the U.S. Among independents, the number is 68%. For Republicans, only 57% believe reality, while 27% of rank-and-file GOP voters believe Obama was “probably” born elsewhere, and 14% of Republicans are convinced he was “definitely” not born here. In other words, a combined 41% of GOP voters are reasonably sure of something with no foundation in reality.

That’s an awful lot of ignorance, generated entirely by a right-wing noise machine pushing a baseless, ridiculous conspiracy theory. As Rush Limbaugh told his minions yesterday, “They tell us August 4th is the birthday. We haven’t seen any proof of that!”


For what it’s worth, the reason poll results like these don’t force me into unreachable despair is that I’m not convinced those who are wrong necessarily understand the constitutional implications. For some of those who question the president’s birthplace, it may not matter whether Obama is a natural-born citizen (reality) or a naturalized citizen (fiction). For all I know, some folks find the whole bogus idea charming: “Isn’t America great? Someone can be born in another country, work hard, and eventually become president of the United States.”

Still, the pervasive quality of the ignorance here is remarkable. Given how obvious reality is, and how many times this nonsense has been debunked, the “birthers” in Congress and the media have to be pretty pleased with themselves.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.