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When something nicely fits with the profile that one side or the other is trying to build, it may endure long after a question has been duly asked and answered.

Questions about the validity of Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate, for example, have been widely discredited, they but keep popping up. Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Rick Perry both toyed with it during the presidential primaries. A poll last May, after Obama had released his detailed Hawaii birth certificate, found that a third of Americans still thought he might have been born elsewhere or said they didn’t know.

Cornog points to plenty of positive aspects to the free-wheeling exchange of ideas and information allowed by a broad variety of news sources and the Internet but also has a warning: “If you enter an age in which you have elective belief systems independent of fact, you have a problem for your political world.”


AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius in Washington contributed this report