Thursday, 4 February 2010

New survey shows what Obama's up against

I realise I've been writing about North America a lot lately, and that's only going to shift to the Southern variety over the next two weeks while I'm in Brazil. I'm flying to Porto, Portugal later today to spend a some time there before flying to Salvador, Brazil tomorrow. It will be a very colonial-type journey, retracing the steps of Portuguese sailors hundreds of years ago as they made their way to the first Brazilian capital. It's a history dork's delight! My boyfriend and I will be in Salvador for five days, then we fly down to Rio de Janeiro for Carneval. I'm very excited. I've actually never been to South America before, so it should be very interesting. Come to think of it, it will be my first time south of the equator!

I probably won't be writing for the next two weeks, so here's something to ruminate on while I'm gone (and once I'm back I'll stop writing about US politics so much I promise). Just in case you forgot what Barack Obama is up against in terms of domestic opposition, take a look at this survey released this week by the non-partisan polling firm Research 2000. The group polled a random sampling of American citizens who are self-identified Republicans and found that a shocking 39% say President Obama should be impeached. What should he be impeached for exactly? Well the rest of the survey results would indicate what they believe his crimes are:
  • Nearly 2/3 of Republicans said Barack Obama is a socialist.
  • 58% said they believe Obama was not born in the United States or they are not sure.
  • 24% said they think Obama wants the terrorists to win, while 33% said they aren't sure.
  • Nearly 1/3 said they think Obama is a racist who hates white people.
And perhaps the most troubling news for Democrats for their election prospects in November - 83% of these people plan to vote. This crowd is energised and passionate in their hatred of the American president. If Obama's supporters don't prove as energised by the time of the November polls, Democrats will be in trouble.
    There were two interesting non-Obama-related items in the survey as well. 77% said they think biblical creationism should be taught in public schools. The creationism/evolution debate still rages on in parts of the US, but isn't a hot issue right at the moment. But another item has particular topical relevance this week - only 55% responded that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. This contrasts with the 77% who oppose gay marriage and the 76% who said abortion is murder.

    In his state of union address last week, Obama said he would act this year on his campaign promise to overturn the American military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. This policy was enacted by congress in the early 1990's as a compromise with Bill Clinton which allows the army to discharge soldiers if they are found to be gay, though they can't ask potential soldiers if they are gay before they sign up.

    Yesterday the top military brass testified before congress that the policy has not only been a disaster (it has actually resulted in an uptick in such discharges since it was adopted, and more recently has resulted in the dismissal of a huge number of Arab linguists that are badly needed in the Middle East), but it also contradicts the values of the army by forcing soldiers to lie. The Republicans on the panel erupted in fury and criticised the generals, even though they've long said they would defer to the military leadership on the issue.

    If the result of this poll are accurate, it would suggest Republican congressmen should use caution before plunging gung-ho into opposing this policy move. If only a bare majority of even their base believes the policy is justified (keep in mind these are the same people who think Obama is a foreign-born terrorist sympathiser), this may not be a winning issue for them.

    In any event these survey results aren't terribly surprising to anyone who's been paying attention to the way the Republican base has been going lately, but I thought it might be an interesting snapshot for people abroad. I think particularly in the UK there's a temptation to compare Republicans with Tories, but as you can see from the result above they are a whole different animal, far to the right of where British Conservatives are on the ideological spectrum.

    Alright that's enough out of me, I'm off to Portugal and then Brazil. Adeus!