There are a whole lot of Virginians out there who aren’t quite sure if President Obama was born in the United States, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The poll, by Public Policy Polling, a nonpartisan Raleigh, N.C.-based firm, found that only 53 percent of Virginians asked were convinced that the president was native-born - a constitutionally mandated requirement for the presidency.
The question of the president’s birthplace - or the “birther” controversy, as it has become known - was largely a phenomenon during the campaign last year, but has refused to go away during Mr. Obama’s presidency. It once again broke into the mainstream and news coverage in the weeks prior to Mr. Obama’s 48th birthday on Tuesday.
Pollsters with Public Policy Polling said they added the question to their Virginia query because they were skeptical of the results of a Daily Kos Web-site poll released last week that showed similar results.
The findings, pollsters said, are also reflected in a poll of North Carolina voters scheduled to be released by the company next week.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the issue on July 27 and called it “made-up, fictional nonsense.”
“I almost hate to indulge in such an august setting as the White House,” Mr. Gibbs said.
But even as the imbroglio gained steam once again, leading voices on the right have tried to tamp it down, saying it is hurting the Republican Party and the conservative movement as a whole.
“It’s just a few cranks out there,” said conservative polemicist Ann Coulter on July 25.
The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday issued a Web video lumping protesters at health care town hall events with those who question Mr. Obama’s birthplace.
Among likely Virginia voters, it might not be simply a matter of a “few cranks.” Twenty-four percent of those queried said they didn’t think Mr. Obama was born in the United States and another 24 percent were unsure.
The poll, of 579 likely voters queried between July 31 and Aug. 3, showed that 74 percent of those people who identified themselves as Democrats thought Mr. Obama was born in the United States, while 41 percent of those who said they did not think he was born in the United States were Republicans.
Men and women were nearly split in their thoughts on the subject. Older voters were more likely to think the president was born in the United States. While 40 percent of younger voters aged 18 to 29 thought Mr. Obama was born here, 35 percent said no and 25 percent were not sure.
Of those who said they were unsure whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States, 32 percent said they voted for Sen. John McCain of Arizona for president last year, and 32 percent said they either voted for someone else or didn’t remember for whom they voted.
Eighty percent of those who said they were sure Mr. Obama was born in the United States cast a ballot for him last year, while just 8 percent of those who voted for him did not think he was born here.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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