Washington: Researchers have turned their attention to people’s belief in rumours that significantly misrepresented Barack Obama’s faith during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Experts at University of Georgia found that media’s efforts to correct the speculation fell short of hitting the mark during the run for White House at the time.
Nearly 20 percent of Americans believed that then-Senator Obama was a Muslim despite journalists’ and fact-checking Web sites bids to trash the rumour.
Professor Barry Hollander in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication said: “With most forms of political knowledge, media should theoretically make you more accurate. In this case, media exposure had no effect. Ultimately, the message here is that people believe what they want to believe.”
Hollander quizzed people with same questions in October, September and November of 2008 and discovered the percentage of respondents who believed that Obama was Muslim stayed more or less the same over the study period, shifting from 20.2 percent in September to 19.7 percent in November.
Hollander continued: “The percentage of people that perceived Obama as Muslim really didn’t change that much, but there was movement among those people. So some people who perceived Obama as Christian early in the study shifted to perceiving him as Muslim and some did the opposite—went from an incorrect perception to a correct perception.”
Hollander added: “I think this is one of those great examples that demonstrate that the best efforts of journalists sometimes fail.”
The study is due to appear in the Journal of Media and Religion.
First Published: Thursday, March 11, 2010, 13:04