Ignoring the real story
In today’s Washington Post, columnist/torture-apologist Marc Thiessen dismisses the importance of a recent Pew poll revealing that 1-in-5 Americans mistakenly believes President Obama is a Muslim. According to Thiessen, the President shouldn’t bother correcting the misperception, but rather should concern itself with addressing other reasons for his approval ratings:
Clearly the White House is worried by the poll results. And it should be worried — but not for the reasons it seems to think. It should be concerned that, after watching the president in office for a year and a half, many Americans still don’t know who Obama really is — and that a growing number have concluded that he does not believe what they believe.
Rather than trying to convince Americans that Obama is indeed a practicing Christian, White House officials should be doing some deep thinking about why the president’s job approval rating has flipped — with most polls showing that more Americans now disapprove of his performance in office than approve of how he’s doing.
Thiessen misses a crucial point – the high correlation between belief that Obama is a Muslim and disapproval of the job he’s doing as president. The Pew poll found that the President’s job approval/disapproval rating among people who (correctly) believe he’s a Christian is 62/29; among those who don’t know his religion it’s 44/40; and among those who (incorrectly) believe he’s a Muslim it’s 26/67. (Emphasis added.)
Correlation is not causation, of course, and myriad nebulous factors influence approval ratings, but the link between believing the president is a Muslim and disapproving of his handling of his job is striking. Couple this with the consistent effort by conservative media to portray the President as a Muslim, and it becomes apparent that cultivating this misperception is a political strategy meant to discredit the president by appealing to religious bigotry and Islamophobia. Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and other purveyors of fear and prejudice are maligning a religious minority to further the short-term goal of scoring political points.They should be called out, not ignored.