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On birtherism, a rare victory for objective reality

Posted by Jesse Singal  May 5, 2011 01:10 PM

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It's good to be wrong, sometimes.

Last week, after President Obama released his long-firm birth certificate, I questioned whether it would make a huge dent in the birther movement, opining, "if you made a Venn diagram of 'Americans who are sympathetic to birther rumors' and 'Americans whose views on Obama's birth will be altered by further documentation,' how many Americans, total, sit in the middle? Six?"

More than that, apparently. Today Talking Points Memo reports that support for the notion that Obama wasn't born in the United States has plummeted across a wide variety of polls.

Here's the most telling one:

In February, [Public Policy Polling] found that just over half (51%) of Republican registered voters nationwide thought Obama wasn't born in America. In a follow-up poll released this week, that number fell 19 points, to 32%.

This is a pleasant surprise. I had very much presumed that those who still bought into the birther myth were beyond the reach of any sort of empirical evidence, since they endlessly buttressed their own views by talking to like-minded conspiracy theorists. While opinions on the matter may still fluctuate down the road, this poll, and others like it, suggests there existed a sort of "casual birther" — folks who had their suspicions but were open to being convinced otherwise. While it's strange that they weren't swayed by the so-called "short-form" birth certificate, released years ago — and every bit as official as its long-form counterpart — it's comforting to know that in our world of widespread polarization and online radicalism, sometimes the real world can prevail.

On the other hand, that 32 percent number is still a bit disconcerting...

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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