- (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
A poll of South Carolina voters conducted by Winthrop University shows that only 24 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in that state believe President Obama was “definitely” born in the United States. Only one in three of those same voters correctly identify Obama's religion as Christian. Nearly the same proportion, 29.5 percent, believe that Obama is “Muslim.”
Since his 2008 campaign, Obama has had to deal with accusations that he was not born in this country (which would disqualify him from the presidency) and that he is a Muslim.
Obama has spoken candidly about his Christian faith and frequently infuses his speeches with Christian themes. He addressed the questions about his religion at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. He described how he “came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and savior.”
“My Christian faith, then, has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time,” Obama said.
Obama's biological father was born Muslim and later became an atheist, but Obama never knew his father growing up. He was mostly raised by his maternal grandparents in Hawaii. Obama was baptized in the United Church of Christ in the 1990s.
Obama first addressed the issue of his birthplace, also known as the “birther conspiracy,” during his 2008 campaign when the Hawaii Department of Health showed Obama's birth certificate to the public and a copy was posted it to his campaign website. Still, the controversy persisted.
In an April 24, 2011, interview on ABC's “This Week,” the Rev. Franklin Graham said, “He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. ... I don’t know why he can’t produce that?”
Around the same time, real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump was reviving the birther conspiracy as he was considering a run for the presidency, and a book was about to be published that claimed to prove that Obama was not born in the United States.
Obama once again addressed the controversy in an April 27, 2011, speech in which he showed his long-form birth certificate (unusual because the long-form is not generally released to the public.) That speech and a copy of the birth certificate can be viewed on the White House website.
Singer and conservative activist Pat Boone raised the controversy again just this week when he claimed that Obama's birth certificate is fake.
Thirty percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in South Carolina say that Obama was “probably” born in the United States. Added to the number who say that he was “definitely” born in the United States, slightly more than half, 54 percent, say he was definitely, or probably, born in the United States. Twenty-four percent say he was “probably” born in another country and 12 percent say he was “definitely” born in another country.
South Carolina is a strongly Republican state with a large proportion of evangelical Christians and Tea Party supporters. Protestants were 75 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Of those, 67 percent identified themselves as “born-again” or “evangelical.”
Twenty-eight percent of the same group identified themselves as a “member” of the Tea Party and 74 percent said they agree with the principles of the Tea Party.
The poll also shows that Texas Governor Rick Perry, with 30 percent, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, with 27 percent, are essentially tied in the South Carolina primary race, when taking into account the 4 percent margin of error.
The poll was conducted Sept. 11-18. The total sample size was 1,552 South Carolinians. Of those, 596 were in the sample of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.