I don’t normally comment on American polls, there’s too many and plenty of people out there doing it well already. This one was just so off-the-wall I couldn’t pass it by though. It’s a poll by Public Policy Polling of likely voters in New Jersey.

President Obama’s popularity over in New Jersey has fallen into negative territory, the interesting bit is some of the more, erm, unusual questions. 21% of respondents said they did not believe the President was born in the USA, which is sadly not unusual to New Jersey – a nationwide YouGov poll in the US found 26% of respondents saying Obama was probably foreign born.

It gets more bonkers though, it went on to ask “Do you think Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ?”. 8% of respondents said yes. 13% said don’t know (which in it’s own way is even more worrying, one can just dismiss the 8% as being insane, rabidly partisan or buggering about… but people who aren’t sure if the President might actually be the anti-Christ?)

It defies further comment really.


48 Responses to “8% of voters in New Jersey think Obama is the anti-Christ”

  1. It doesn’t defy further comment. ;) It’s just the same as the “literally anyone” question in the poll a few days ago – simply an invitation for the respondent to not that the survey seriously.

  2. It is most depressing that I am not surprised by this.

    Can’t we just wall it off?

  3. Anthony,

    Having looked in detail at US News during the Megrahi episode, this doesn’t surprise me.

    The level of venom in US politics and the media is something to behold.

    I am someone who likes America and Americans but to be honest I am increasingly beginning to wonder if we can continue to view the US as a reliable ally.

    What happens if your key ally starts to make knee jerk reactions and suffers from rapid switches of policy over which you have little inluence.

    What do you do if your are working together with a president who at any time will be forced to change policy because of domestic politics or have there attention distracted by a media campaign that to us is little short of demented.

    It’s a serious question we should all ask;

    Is it in the UK’s long term interest to put at the heart of our foreign and defence policy a special relationship with an erratic ally.

    Discuss…..

    Peter.

  4. It probably comes as a surprise to europeans used to leftwing media.Remember Regan was portrayed as an unpopular idiot despite recording massive election victories whilst Clinton who never won 50% is portrayed as some kind of US hero.So now Obama is practically the “son of God” in the worshipping European media and ofcourse Hollywood despite barely beating McCain,a maverik who could’nt unite his party.

  5. D Bliss,

    It’s not about what we think about Obama, it’s about a country wher near one in ten can believe that any US President might be the Anti-Christ.

    That’s not right v left that’s science v superstittion. You don’t need to be left wing to think that Hitler was a nut for believeing in astrology.

    Peter.

  6. Anthony,

    Just looked at the poll results.

    it’s just a poll of 500 with a 4.5% margin of error, plus it seems to be a phone poll wher you press “1” for “Yes” or “2” for “No” etc. including on your voter affiliation, sex and age. Isn’t that pretty open to abuse.

    Peter.

  7. It points to the fact that the US is a very different place to Europe. And I think the divergence is widening.

  8. Peter – well, to be honest I’m not that fussed. I only put it up because it was such a bizarre question to find in a poll!

    For what it’s worth though, polls of 500 or 600 people are actually quite common in the USA. It’s important to note that they are often, as they are in this case, only of “likely voters”. That means the sample size isn’t so different from UK ones.

    A UK MORI poll of 1000 people actually has about 500 or so “likely voters”, who go towards the topline voting intention figure. In US polls they probably started with 1000 or so people too, but they completely filter out the people they don’t count as likely voters.

    Automated phone polls. I’m not going to say too much because I’m sure there’s a bucketload of research into them I’ve never really looked at, since they aren’t a factor in UK polling. The only time it’s been tried for political polls here was Rasmussen in 2001, and they performed very well.

    There probably isn’t too much abuse, sure, you can claim you are a little old lady when you are a young man and you couldn’t do that with a live interviewer – but what does it gain you? It’s probably easier for people to just bang random numbers as well… but since you don’t get paid, if you didn’t want to do it it would be much easier to just hang up. It could have an upside too, since it should avoid the interviewer effect.

  9. A widespread view in the EU is that no odd or irrational behaviour by an American should be the cause of surprise. It’s normal.

    A Slovenian friend is of the opinion that American influence in the world has already peaked because adult literacy levels are steadily declining, year on year.

    My impression is that in mainland Europe there is greater awareness and less acceptance of the sort of thing described above and though there is no hostility to individual Americans who find their way to Europe, as a nation they are considered to be ignorant and easily led.

  10. I don’t think its ridiculous to choose ‘dont know’.

    First off, lets assume you can’t mock people for answering or asking the question.

    Ok.
    So if you believe in the antichrist, then you probably believe they will be a popular leader who noone suspects and as such assumes a large amount of power. They would not be ‘revealed’ until one of the main prophecy events in revelation. To say that you believe in the antichrist is to say that you believe someone will come who noone will suspect.

    ‘Dont know’ is the same as ‘no’ and is a fraction of ‘i believe in the antichrist’.

  11. The few Americans that I have encountered personally have always seemed intelligent and rational, though it is probably a selective sample, being mainly those who can afford to and are interested in coming to Europe.

    I have a question though – if the same question was asked in Britain about a politician who is/was hated by some – e.g. Maggie Thatcher, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson etc ; I wonder what the result would be?

  12. Whilst I find this poll entertaining, since we have nothing to compare it to, it’s scientifically invalid. There is no control.

    After all, if we surveyed the SNP, I’m sure we could find a good few hard-core Sweeneyites who, when prompted, profess that the UK government was begotten by Satan on a dark night, or a dwindling set of oldies in the Tory party who have interesting views on race. Similarly we could find some Stalinist apologists hiding in the Labour bushes. The list goes on.

    But that doesn’t mean that the US is especially imperfect. We can all sit here laughing, but we’re a highly selected sub-group of the UK, and our social circles aren’t likely to be much different. That’s the point of polls; they’re meant to be representative of everyone, including those we’d rather not be associated with.

  13. The most worrying thing is that New Jersey is one of the more Liberal states in America. Obama won it by about 57% to 42% last year over McCain.

  14. I agree with the first response – not only does this not defy further comment, I’d like to hear some more of these examples of bizarre polls, if perhaps in a separate section to the main blog!

    @D Bliss

    Obama is certainly popular in Europe, but to say he’s treated like the Son of God in the media is just hyperbole. Is it not possible that he could be neither the Son of God nor the Antichrist?
    The point of this article isn’t about the individual politicians, it’s about the extreme polarization and hyperbole in American politics… THAT is what’s incomprehensible to Europeans.

    @Forge Lindin

    The question was “Do you think he is the Anti-Christ?”.

    “Don’t know” means they aren’t sure if they think he probably is or they don’t think he probably is, not that they believe there’s a possibility.

    @Pete B

    Are we only allowed to pick one? ;)

  15. Richard – the reality is though that other places don’t ask questions like that (and to be fair, neither do most US pollsters).

    I was less surprised that a minority of people agreed with it (a small minority of people agree to any old crap – 3% of people in the UK told Populus they believe in vampires) than to find the question innocuously turning up in the middle of an otherwise normal political survey.

  16. Some interesting numbers in the crosstabs too – 5% of people who voted for Obama said they think he’s the Antichrist, and a further 5% of his voters were “Not Sure” whether he is or not!

    Still, at least the remaining 90% of his voters don’t think he’s the Antichrist. Only 68% of Republican voters are confident that he isn’t…

  17. @Anthony

    I sensed a little American-bashing from the Scots contingent, so I thought I’d give examples from our parties (SNP included) of views in some minorities that are unlikely to be relevant to any political situation.

    @Peter

    “I am increasingly beginning to wonder if we can continue to view the US as a reliable ally.”

    Wasn’t the possible resurrection of the Auld Alliance one of the reasons for the 1707 Acts of Union in the first place? ;)

  18. Just when you thought you could trust Americans again for voting in Obama, here comes further proof that there is a deep vein of insanity in the American people.

  19. Personally I always thought he was the antichrist, so it is good to know I am not alone :)

    Seriously though, that is such a stupid question that a lot of people who do not like Obama might just say yes for fun or spite.

  20. Before we all get on our high horses and think we are morally superior. pwrhaps we should consider what the response would be if this was asked in the uk?

    Anthiny you have links to you gov any chance they can put it in there next survey about gordon?

  21. Be sporting – Mandelson surely!

  22. “I am increasingly beginning to wonder if we can continue to view the US as a reliable ally.”

    I feel sure that your sentiment is reciprocated over there Peter.

    “That’s not right v left that’s science v superstittion”

    Ipsos MORI for the BBC’s Horizon series.2006:-

    Over 2,000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

    22% chose creationism
    17% opted for intelligent design

    When given a choice of three descriptions for the development of life on Earth, people were asked which one or ones they would like to see taught in science lessons in British schools:

    44% said creationism should be included
    41% intelligent design

    If there is one thing more amusing than Yanks with strange beliefs, it is sanctimonious Brits who think we don’t have them too.

  23. The Crosstabs suggest that 5% of people who voted for Obama think he is the anti-Christ, and a further 5% are not sure!

    It’s also pretty scary how many “truthers” there are in the US (ie people who think Bush had advance knowledge of 9/11.

  24. Colin, I’m not a nutter, but I would have both intelligent design included in RE lessons, and creationism included in science lessons. I think the Pope agrees with the former.

    I also don’t know if Obama is or is not “the anti-christ”, because I don’t know how to define that; nor do I agree with the premise of the question (ie that there is an anti-christ and we are only in the business of identifying the particular human form of it)

    Saying he isn’t the anti-christ suggests complicity with the notion that an anti-christ might exist. A leading question therefore which has no place in a reputable poll for that reason, rather than for its distasteful connotations.

  25. I agree with Mr Schmiggle…

    If you ask a daft question you will get sarcastic or deliberately bogus or provocative replies.

    I has lunch with someone in Inverness last year who calmly told me he believed the world was created 4000 years ago. So come of it all you sanctimonious clots.

  26. First off, lets assume you can’t mock people for answering or asking the question.

    Why?

    Meanwhile, let’s not forget that being a Republican correlates with disbelief in plate tectonics.

  27. @John TT

    “…and creationism included in science lessons.”

    Why? It’s not a science, nor even a scientific theory, as defined by the concept of falsifiability, advanced by Karl Popper. Furthermore, Intelligent Design in its modern incarnation was created as part of the Discovery Institute’s “wedge strategy” that was leaked some years ago, as was illustrated in the court case of Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District in 2005.

  28. Richard – I’d only be lifting quotes from The Pope’s Regensburg speech of Sep 12 2006, so you might as well read it for yourself. It was exrtremely controversial at the time, as muslims took offence, but in context, it was much more interesting.

    Basically, we shrink the radius of knowledge if we exclude theology and the so-called “human sciences” and study only that which is empirically provable.

    I’m not suggesting that all creationists recognise science as valid, or the those polled think science is bunkum.

    It’s just more complex than you make out.

  29. @John TT

    I am aware of the Pope’s speech, and how the poor chap was ruthlessly and obviously misquoted over the comment about Muslims in it, and I have defended him on that point. I did read it at the time, as when people shout a lot about things, I like to see the original source (e.g. the Rivers of Blood speech by Powell, which although rather racist, was the least racist speech I’ve seen of his).

    There are many things that are unprovable in the original sense (i.e. untestable): mathematics is one! Philosophies are another, and I would place theology is in that group. I would not say that they are unworthy of study, merely (I repeat) that they ought not to be in a science classroom.

  30. @ johntt:-

    “Colin, I’m not a nutter”

    Perish the thought john !!!!

    “I would have intelligent design included in RE lessons, I think the Pope agrees ”

    Ummm…his opinion wouldn’t actually influence me greatly john.

    I quite like this though, from a fascinating & massive Wikipedia on the subject of ID :-

    “Some religiously oriented commentators, such as Natan Slifkin, have more directly criticized the advocates of intelligent design as presenting a perspective of God that is dangerous to religion. Those who promote it as parallel to religion, he asserts, do not truly understand it. Slifkin criticizes intelligent design’s advocacy of teaching their perspective in biology classes, wondering why no one claims that God’s hand should be taught in other secular classes, such as history, physics or geology. Slifkin also asserts that the intelligent design movement is inordinately concerned with portraying God as “in control” when it comes to things that cannot be easily explained by science, but not in control in respect to things which can be explained by scientific theory. Kenneth Miller expresses a view similar to Slifkin’s: “[T]he struggles of the Intelligent Design movement are best understood as clamorous and disappointing double failures – rejected by science because they do not fit the facts, and having failed religion because they think too little of God.” “

  31. johntt-I meant to mention the marvelous & deeply thoughtful “Resuing Darwin” , produced by the religious think tank Theos. It’s on their website & I thoroughly recommend it .

    Here are a few quotes from it’s consideration of ID :-

    “…..ID fails to count as science by these criteria. First,
    simply saying that something is “designed” in biology
    leads to no increase in our understanding of the
    relationships between the various material components that comprise living matter. Second,
    labelling a biological entity as “designed” leads to no
    experimental programme that could be utilised to
    test the hypothesis, a fact which presumably explains the lack of scientific publications arising from ID writers.

    Problem Two comes from the suggestion that it is possible to define certain biological entities as “irreducibly complex” in a meaningful fashion. In reality it just isn’t possible. All living matter is composed of thousands of components, all of which need to work together in a coordinated fashion to produce those properties that we associate with life.
    All the biological “sub-systems” that maintain cell growth and division, including all biochemical pathways, are complex, without exception. It could easily be argued that all of them fall within the ID criteria used to identify an “irreducibly complex” system, since in each and every case the sub-system only functions properly providing all the
    components are in place. So the ID goal of identifying “designed entities” in biology,
    detected against a background of “natural entities which science does understand”, fails at the first hurdle.

    What we have in ID is the “fallacy of large numbers”: as soon as you have a multicomponent system, then the chances of it coming into being all at once as a fully functional system are remotely small. But, of course, no biologist thinks that’s how evolution works. Evolution works incrementally.
    In truth, ID looks rather like the old “god-of-the-gaps” argument, except that in this case it might be more accurate to call it the “designer-of-the-gaps” argument. The (flawed) argument here is that “god” provides an explanation for things that science can’t (yet)
    explain. Of course, what invariably happens is that in the fullness of time the gap in scientific knowledge closes and the “god” or “designer” disappears.

    ID has none of the characteristics that make it
    recognisable as science.

    The dubious philosophy that drives Intelligent
    Design (not to mention the dubious theology that
    drives Young Earth Creationism) in turn provokes
    modern Darwinians to insist all the more loudly on
    evolution’s truth and its allegedly manifest
    implications for human nature, morality, religion, etc.
    And this, in turn, further alienates those who might
    otherwise be able to accept evolution. A vicious
    circle is born.
    The tragedy in all this is that the battle is entirely unnecessary. “

  32. Richard – Largely, I agree! But like a French lesson can cross-refer to a Physics lesson, the same with RE and science. They both suffer if they are held to be mutually exclusive. Clearly the pope was celebrating the fact that universities have science faculties and theology ones, and that depite disagreements, their work was compatible and should not be completely separated.

    Colin – you seem to be on the side of those who like a good fight over the issue. Heaven forbid there would ever be a winner – rather like our occasional bouts, victory would only curtail the pursuit of wisdom, and make life a little duller.

  33. Colin – just read your second post and i completely agree with the final sentence in it.

  34. Richard – if a particle physicist were asked to put millions of people’s life savings on the provability of an equation he should probably decline. However, that’s what caused the credit crunch. “Blinded by science” could have been coined to describe the adherence of the bankers’ risk managers to what they were shown by the scientists.

    Equally, of course, “blind faith” causes as much damage in the world.

  35. Obviously a leading question – it wouldn’t stand up in any courtroom. I suspect that all it picks up is the percentage of people in New Jersey who dislike Obama enough to say he is the Antichrist rather than the percentage that actually believe it.

  36. @John TT

    “if a particle physicist were asked to put millions of people’s life savings on the provability of an equation he should probably decline”

    I fear that you misunderstand science and the concept of “proof”.

    There are 2 meanings of “provability”:

    1) “demonstratable beyond doubt”; the modern understanding. This can never exist in science as it would violate the principle of falsifiability; theories must always be amenable to questioning. Theories can be shown to be irrevocably wrong, but never irrevocably right.

    2) “testable” as in the old meaning derivable from Latin and seen in “the proof (test) is in the pudding”, “the exception proves (tests) the rule” and in Spanish word “probar”, to test/taste/try/experiment.

    In the first case, the physicist (unless they’re confident) wouldn’t take the bet. In the second, the physicist (at least, the experimental ones) is guaranteed to do so, at least if you pay for the experiment!

  37. Richard – nice one, but your deconstruction suggests you believe I do understand the concept of proof in your first definition – the risk managers applied the first meaning and committed the funds to exotic instruments on the false basis that the equation must have been correct beyond doubt (because a scientist gave it to them)

    Of course the second was appreciated by the rocket scientists – it wasn’t their money being risked, and they were paid a fortune for their equations.

    Whether or not I understand science is neither here nor there. I wish the bankers had understood the difference between proof and the testing of a theorem.

    Of course, those 8% who say they believe a whacky theory are doing what Neil says above – finding a way of expressing their opinion. They have a place on the continuum towards the truth, but they (along with IMO bankers) are pretty much at the other end from that occupied by theologians, real scientists and with respect, your good self.

  38. Most likely at least some of those respondents just interpret “Anti-Christ” as shorthand for “the personification of everything I dislike”.

    Even so, if Obama makes it through his presidency alive, it will be a tribute to the quality of his security.

  39. Whilst many of us may occasionally have our prejudices about Americans satisfied with such troll-surveys, I do sense a whiff of cloaked jingoistic guardianista snobbery… you don’t think for a minute that some of the people who filled this form in might have been having a laugh and not taking it seriously?
    300,000 Jedi can’t be wrong.

  40. If a British poll asked ‘Is Ian Paisley the anti-christ?’, no one would bat an eyelid if more than half the responses were in agreement, AND no one would feel the need to debate creationism and intelligent design as a result.

    More Americans get irony than you think, people.

  41. Didn’t need to debate it at all. Just felt like it.

  42. Please could the person above who has used my monicer (one I use to differentiate me from James on the site) use a different name.

  43. It probably comes as a surprise to europeans used to leftwing media.Remember Regan was portrayed as an unpopular idiot despite recording massive election victories whilst Clinton who never won 50% is portrayed as some kind of US hero.So now Obama is practically the “son of God” in the worshipping European media and ofcourse Hollywood despite barely beating McCain,a maverik who could’nt unite his party.

    —————

    No doubt one of the 8%.

  44. Just to throw in a random thought –

    Surely if God exists he invented Evolution?

    @MisterDavid
    I seriously doubt that more than a tiny fraction outside Northern Ireland would think that Paisley was the Anti-Christ. You would probably get far more saying that the Pope was – simply because Paisley openly declared it and he has many followers in Northern Ireland.

  45. Anthony,

    “3% of people in the UK told Populus they believe in vampires”,

    Only one in thirty of us, wake up fools the undead are at your doors…..

    Peter.

  46. @ Pete B – I’ll bet that a poll asking whether Tony Blair or Gordon Brown was “the Anti-Christ” would get more than 8% yesses from Brits.

  47. Typical Americans!

    Why do they think that the anti christ has to be american?

    BTW how many Americans think that he is the 2nd coming?

    My first post! I love this site, its my fav blog!

  48. I agree that Europeans have no reason to be sanctimonious. You could discover appreciable numbers of people holding strange beliefs in all countries (and many people who hold strange beliefs will be highly intelligent).