Perry Now Leads in Iowa, in Part Thanks to Birthers

One reason so many aren't sure Obama's not a citizen is that they're not sure Hawaii is a state

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If trials are decided by 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty, maybe polling data is based on a sufficiently large sample of people too stupid to get off the phone with a pollster. Public Policy Polling just released a new poll with the attention-grabbing finding that 32 percent of Republican voters in Iowa think President Obama was not born in the United States -- just as Rick Perry has taken a narrow lead in the state. Perry has 22 percent, followed by prior leader Mitt Romney with 19 percent, Michele Bachmann at 18 percent and then Ron Paul at 16 percent.

PPP's Tom Jensen interprets the data to mean that "Perry's support is being built on Tea Party support and voters with very conservative positions on certain issues." But break it down and the birther bump is nothing like the enthusiasm that propelled Donald Trump to the top of the Republican polls in the spring. Michele Bachmann gets far more support from birthers. As Jensen writes:

With the ones who think Obama was born in the country, Romney edges Perry 25-22. That's more than overcome by Perry's 22-10 lead with the GOP voters who don't think the President is a legitimate US citizen. 

If we're reading those numbers correctly (and doing our math correctly), Perry's 12-point lead among the 32 percent of the GOP who are clinging to birtherism would translate to just under 4 points of the topline tally of all GOP voters. That does not seem like an overwhelming advantage over the other candidates. Especially in a poll that has a 5.5 percent margin of error.

More illuminating may be the intriguing sidenot he posted last week: 10 percent of Americans don't think Hawaii is a state or aren't sure if it is. And 20 percent of birthers are Democrats. Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin notes that PPP became a favorite pollster of Democrats by combining an impressive record of accurately predicting elections with a shameless glee in asking questions that make Republicans look stupid -- whether Obama would be raptured in the event of the Apocalypse (44 percent say no) or whether Palin supporters think Obama is the anti-Christ (21 percent say yes). Funnily enough (or not), Jay Leno has also covered the America public's lack of knowledge about Hawaii. These semi-dad jokes are, for liberals, the sugar PPP sprinkles with the bitter medicine that, say, Obama's base is less enthusiastic than ever about voting in 2012. Or that Rick Perry's campaign machine might be surging in Iowa.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.