WASHINGTON — The release of President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate Wednesday took many observers by surprise. Many pundits questioned the timing and the political wisdom of the announcement, a sentiment White House Communications Director Dan Pfieffer seemed to confirm. He suggest to reporters at that morning’s press briefing that it might have been in the president’s “long-term political interests to allow this birther debate to dominate discussion in the Republican Party for months to come.”
But that may not have been the case. The most recent public polling on the issue shows that, overall, doubts about Obama’s birth had been growing glacially at best, and not at all among independents. While the vast majority of Obama supporters and swing voters give the “birther” theories little credence, the controversy sharply divides Republicans. Moreover, even though release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate is dramatic and unparalleled, it is unlikely to make a significant dent in any of these attitudes.
Here are five key findings from public polling that help put the “birther” issue into perspective: