SIDE-BY-SIDE: From seeing President Obama as a Socialist to the Antichrist, the diverging views held by Republicans, Democrats and Independents, as reported by the new Harris poll. Graphic by LiveScience
Americans have some extreme views of President Obama, with a new controversial survey suggesting that 40 percent of adults believe he is a socialist, and about a quarter of survey participants thinking the president is a racist, anti-American and even doing things Hitler did.
The whammy: 14 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama may be the Antichrist. When split by political party, 24 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats viewed the nation's leader in this way.
The results come from an online Harris Poll involving 2,320 adults who were surveyed online between March 1 and March 8 by Harris Interactive, a market research firm. Respondents were read each of 15 statements and asked whether they thought they were true or false. The sample of people was selected from among roughly 4 million people who agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys and are given "modest incentives," according to Harris. The results were then weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. [Infographic Compares Views]
The accuracy of the poll has been questioned widely in the blogosphere. Polls are never free from error, with sampling bias and question types leading to flaws. Online polls, in particular, raise questions about bias.
"The thing about sampling is no sample avoids bias," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, Harris Interactive. "The question is can you identify and correct for the biases that are in there. We have a sizable team that does that and nothing else."
Here's the percentage breakdown of respondents' views of President Obama:
- 38 percent say he wants to take away Americans' right to own guns.
- 32 percent say he is a Muslim.
- 29 percent think he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government.
- 29 percent think he has done many things that are unconstitutional.
- 27 percent say he resents America's heritage.
- 27 percent say he does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do.
- 25 percent say he was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.
- 25 percent say he is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of.
- 23 percent say he is a racist.
- 23 percent say he is anti-American.
- 23 percent say he wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.
- 20 percent say he is doing many of the things that Hitler did.
When broken out by political party, results showed some stark differences. For instance, the majority of Republicans believed the president is a Muslim and a socialist, while around 40 percent believe he is a racist, someone who resents American heritage and "wants terrorists to win."
Forty percent of Republicans, compared with just 15 percent of Democrats, think Wall Street pulls his strings.
When Harris' Taylor saw the results he told LiveScience he was "flabbergasted. I would've guessed the numbers would've been a lot smaller than that."
He added, "It means that very large numbers of people are misninformed not only about President Obama but many things in modern life."
The findings lend support to, and in fact were done to verify, themes in John Avlon's new book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America" (Beast Books, 2010).
"This poll should be a wake-up call to all Americans about the real costs of using fear and hate to pump up hyper-partisanship," Avlon said after reviewing the findings. "We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing our country in the process. Americans need to remember the perspective that Wingnuts always forget – patriotism is more important than partisanship."
While extreme, there's a chance some respondents weren't even sure what a Muslim is, for instance. Research reported in 2008 suggested Americans have inaccurate views of Muslims: Many think the Islamic religion is associated with violence and religious extremism, and perhaps even terrorism. In addition, seven in 10 Americans in that study admitted they know very little about the Islamic religion.This story was updated at 12:35 p.m. ET to include details about the polling methodology.