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Zombie lies linger in the Deep South

Zombie lies are clearly the hardest to kill.
Zombie lies are clearly the hardest to kill.Associated Press

While it's tempting to think the nation has moved past ridiculous questions about President Obama's faith, Jon Chait takes a closer look at the latest Public Policy Polling survey (pdf) out of Alabama and Mississippi, and notices some disconcerting results.

PPP asks Republicans in Alabama, "Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?" Guess how many say Christian? 14%! Among the remaining 86%, "Muslim" slightly leads "not sure," 45%-41%. ("Not sure" may by the demographic Rick Santorum is reaching out to when he accuses Obama of peddling a "phony theology.") But the Alabama Republicans are a thoroughly trusting lot in comparison with their Mississippi brethren. Among Mississippi Republicans, just 12% say Christian, 52% say Muslim, and 36% aren't sure. The poll also finds that two-thirds of the Republicans in both states do not believe in evolution. Two-thirds of Alabama Republicans also believe interracial marriage ought to be legal, compared with 54% of Mississippi Republicans.

To be sure, the poll only surveyed self-identified Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi -- rather than the general population of both states -- but that's cold comfort.

I've seen some suggestions that, as far as GOP voters in Alabama and Mississippi are concerned, "Muslim" may be less about religion and more about serving as a proxy for broader hostility towards the president. That's certainly possible, though that sort of bigotry just isn't healthy.

But the other results paint just as ugly a picture. Only about one in seven Republicans in these states believes the president is telling the truth about his own faith tradition, but PPP also found most Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi rejecting modern biology and interracial marriage.

That these are the same folks who'll help decide who the Republican Party's presidential nominee tomorrow is not at all reassuring.