Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Those Crazy Jerseyites

Pollsters have gathered some interesting data on attitudes toward Barack Obama in New Jersey. Apparently, 8% of residents in the Garden State are convinced that Obama is the Anti-Christ, and another 13% aren't sure. Those numbers are even higher among registered Republicans (14% and 15%, respectively). 21% of those polled, including 33% of Republicans, are "birthers", believing that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. On the other end of the whacko spectrum, 19% of respondents, including 32% of Democrats, believe that George W. Bush had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. "Birthers" and "truthers" combined make up 37% of the electorate polled.

In my view, this is probably a reflection of the limits of polling as an apparatus for gauging public opinion - as has been well documented by people who study human communication, the same option can elicit vastly different responses depending on how it is presented. Furthermore, one cannot discount the "wiseass factor" - people are notoriously prone to lying to pollsters, and quite a few of my friends I suspect would tell a pollster they believed the President was the Anti-Christ just so they could laugh about it afterwards.

Assuming, however, that the results are somewhat reflective of real opinion, it's scary, because it means that we are attempting to operate a democracy in which 37% of the electorate (perhaps more - New Jersey had the lowest percentage of "birthers" of any state polled, though probably a higher percentage of "truthers") believe things that are, not to put to fine a point on it, absolutely batshit fucking insane. JFK-was-assasinated-by-the-Illuminati-the-Mob-and-Cuban-Agents-plotting-in-Area-51, tinfoil hat wearing insane. This is not because the beliefs that Obama is actually foreign-born or that Bush wished to let 9/11 happen so he could invade Iraq at the behest of the neocons are inherently as implausible, but because we have scads of contrary evidence that renders both notions implausible upon rational scrutiny. Believing something for which there is no evidence is one thing. Continuing to believe it when investigation has revealed nothing but masses of evidence to the contrary is another thing entirely. It's not a commitment to finding the truth. It's delusional psychosis. No democracy in which a third of the body politics consists of delusional psychotics can possibly stay healthy for long.

Ergo, I really, really hope that the data in this poll are correctly explained by my initial theory.

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