Number of 'birthers' is declining, recent polls show

The number of Americans who doubt that Obama was born in the US is declining, tracking the rise in his approval rating, recent polls show. Still, the number of 'birthers' is significant.

Nick Ut/AP
Orly Taitz outside the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif., on May 2. A federal appeals court in California has heard arguments about a lawsuit challenging the US citizenship of President Obama, despite the release of his detailed birth certificate. Ms. Taitz argued that the lawsuit, which was dismissed two years ago, be remanded back to US District Judge David Carter.

Questions about President Obama’s place of birth – raised by conspiracy theorists, many tea partyers, and most prominently by Donald Trump – still exist. But the number of “birthers” is declining since Mr. Obama released his “long-form” birth certificate last month, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.

Those who say the president “definitely” was born in the United States jumped from 38 percent in April to 47 percent in May, with another 18 percent saying he “probably” was born here, for a total of 65 percent. Those who say Obama “definitely” or “probably” was born “in another country” dropped 11 percentage points to 24 percent. The rest (20 percent) say they don’t know enough to decide.

“President Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate appears to have significantly reduced skepticism about his place of birth, but by no means completely,” writes Gallup analyst Lymari Morales. “All political groups are more likely after the release than they were before it to say Obama was definitely or probably born in the US.”

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Nearly half of Republicans (49 percent) now say Obama was definitely or probably born in the US, up from 35 percent. Among independents, the number rose from 56 percent to 65 percent, and among Democrats the number gained another three percentage points to 81 percent.

“Still,” Morales adds, “13 percent of all Americans and nearly 1 in 4 Republicans continue to say he was definitely or probably born in another country.”

In general, the number of doubters parallels geography (higher numbers in the South) and lower socio-economic status, as well as how respondents view the job Obama is doing.

The results reflect Obama’s increased approval rating – up six points to 52 percent – after the killing of Osama bin Laden last week. Gallup calls this a “rally event,” the first the polling organization has observed during Obama’s presidency.

Notably, Obama’s approval rating jumped 12 percentage points (to 21 percent) among Republicans and nine percentage points (to 49 percent) among independents. It stayed at 81 percent among Democrats.

A recent Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll conducted from May 1 (the day Obama announced the death of Bin Laden) to May 6 showed results similar to Gallup.

Of the 971 adults polled nationwide, 64 percent said they “always knew President Obama was born in the US.” Nine percent said they’d had some doubts but that once they’d seen the long-form birth certificate they were “satisfied that he was born in the US,” for a total of 73 percent. Twenty percent said they “still had some doubts about where he was born,” and 6 percent weren’t sure.

Donald Trump, who took credit for forcing Obama to release the long-form birth certificate, has dropped the issue as he presses on with his potential presidential bid – this week in New Hampshire, where he emphasized the economy and trade.

But Mr. Trump is not totally out of the story. A copy of Obama’s birth certificate signed by Trump is being offered on eBay for $1,525.

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