"Birther" phenomenon strong in the rural South, pollsters find

obama_birth_announcement.jpgThe "birther" phenomenon -- those who maintain that President Obama was not born in the United States despite his Hawaiian birth certificate and a 1961 birth announcement (image at right) that was officially placed -- is strong in the rural South, according to the latest findings from a North Carolina-based polling organization.

Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C. released the findings last week of a survey of Virginia voters that found only 53% of those planning to cast a ballot in this fall's election for governor think Obama was born in the United States, while 24% say he was not and another 24% are unsure. Birther sentiments are not limited to those who oppose the president: Among those Virginia voters who say Obama is doing a good job, 7% still have doubts about his U.S. birth while another 10% say they're unsure.

PPP released another poll of North Carolina voters this week that had similar findings, with only 54% of respondents saying with certainty that they believe Obama was born in the United States, 26% saying he was not and 20% unsure. There's a big divide by political party, with only 24% of N.C. Republicans believing Obama was born in the United States compared to 63% of Independents and 75% of Democrats.

Interestingly, the pollsters also threw in a question about whether North Carolina voters believe Hawaii is part of the United States -- and found that fully 8% of respondents said either that it was not or that they were unsure. With 68% of those voters expressing disapproval of Obama's performance, the pollsters wonder whether people's refusal to acknowledge that Hawaii is a U.S. state "may be a response to dislike of the President the state produced."

The findings come on the heels of a Daily Kos poll we reported on last week that found the South to be a stronghold of birther sentiment, with 47% of the region's residents certain Obama was born in the United States, compared to 93% of those in the Northeast, 90% in the Midwest and 87% in the West.

The PPP pollsters also found that the birthers are a rural phenomenon. While 29% of North Carolina's overall population describe where they live as rural, 43% of the birthers do. In Virginia, 24% of the population says they live in a rural community compared to 33% of the birthers. And this finding can't be attributed only to rural voters being more likely  to vote Republican, the pollsters note:
For instance in North Carolina 64% of rural Republicans think he was not born in the US, compared to 47% of Republicans overall. 20% of rural Democrats think he wasn't born in the US, compared to 12% of all Democrats.

That same trend holds in Virginia where 53% of rural Republicans think Obama was not born in the US, compared to 41% of all Republicans.
(Image of Barack Obama's 1961 birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper from Buzznewsroom)