Certain robust public perceptions about President Obama have surfaced among average citizens rather than so-called "wingnuts" and "lunatic fringe."
A Harris Poll released Wednesday found that 40 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama is a socialist, a third think he's a Muslim, a quarter think he was not even born in the U.S., is not eligible to be president and is a "domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of."
The pollster asked provocative questions indeed, with equally provocative findings.
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Among other things, the poll also found that three-out-of-10 Americans think Mr. Obama "wants to turn over the sovereignty of the U.S. to a one-world government." About an equal number - 29 percent - said he had "done many things that are unconstitutional" while 27 percent said "he resents America's heritage."
Between 20 percent and 23 percent said Mr. Obama is "a racist," "anti-American" and "is doing many of the things that Hitler did." Fourteen percent went so far as to agree that Mr. Obama "may be the anti-Christ" while 13 percent said "he wants the terrorists to win."
Predictably, there was a huge partisan divide. For example, 67 percent of both Republicans and conservatives said Mr. Obama was a socialist, compared with 14 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of liberals.
"The very large numbers of people who believe all these things of President Obama help to explain the size and strength of the 'tea party movement,' a topic that will be addressed in another Harris Poll in a few days time," said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor.
"These new numbers are shocking but not surprising - they detail the extent to which 'wingnuts' are hijacking our politics. This poll should be a wake-up call to all Americans about the real costs of using fear and hate to pump up hyper-partisanship," John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America" told the Harris pollster.
"We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing our country in the process. Americans need to remember the perspective that Wingnuts always forget - patriotism is more important than partisanship," Mr. Avlon said.
The findings garnered other critical - as well as comedic - reactions.
ABC News polling director Gary Langer questioned the "highly manipulative" and "unbalanced" polling practices in the survey of 2,320 adults, conducted online March 1-8.
The Hartford Courant newspaper assembled its own mock poll, quipping that "Republicans believe Obama is from Lovetron and therefore not eligible to be president." The poll also inspired late night comic and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
"Thirty eight percent believe hes like Hitler? How is that possible? He doesnt even have a mustache?" Mr. Kimmel demanded.
"MSNBC repeatedly hammered the incendiary findings of the Harris poll," said Scott Whitlock, an analyst at the conservative Media Research Center.
Anchors David Shuster and Dylan Ratigan pondered the findings. Mr. Shuster eventually said the poll suggested "that general hatred of President Obama on the right - which may be fueling the lunatic fringe - is more widespread than previously thought."
Mr. Whitlock questioned their close attention to the survey.
"One has to ask, why would MSNBC be so fascinated by the findings of an online poll? The Harris survey definitely paints Republicans and conservatives in a bad light. And that might account for MSNBC's intense interest," Mr. Whitlock said.
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