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Even On Streets Of NYC, Some Think Obama Is Muslim

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- A new presidential poll reveals the number of Americans who believe President Barack Obama is Muslim is on the rise.

This comes as the president arrived in Cape Cod for a 10-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard where his family was to meet him later Thursday.

No matter how many times the president says he's a Christian, some just don't get it.

Even on the streets of New York City.

"I think he's Muslim actually," one person told CBS 2's Sean Hennessey when asked the question.

The long-standing myth regarding President Obama's faith seems to be growing.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows nearly 1 in 5 Americans, 18 percent, believe Obama is Muslim, a huge jump from the 11 percent who held that belief a year and a half ago.

"My rational self was shocked, my culturally aware self was not surprised at all," said theology expert Serene Jones.

Jones heads up Columbia's Union Theological Seminary.

"It's just flat out racism. It's a way of putting what seems to be acceptable prejudice upon the president when what is at stake, in large part, is deep questions about racism in this country," Jones said.

And with deep questions about the state of the country, some feel the president is a convenient pawn.

"There's no question people are not learning enough, they're not thinking enough and they're charging a guy like Obama because he has a peculiar name, happens to be black, and is the President of the United States in tough economic times. They're trying to make him into the enemy -- not good," political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.

Meanwhile, the president's middle name, "Hussein," isn't helping with the confusion. However, some say that's no excuse for the ingrained ignorance.

"The poll? Well that people are stupid? No, I've been a cop for 32 years. Nothing surprises me," one police officer told Hennessey.

The president's father was Muslim. On Thursday the White House repeated that President Obama is a Christian who prays daily.

The poll was taken before the president said the proposed mosque near ground zero had a right to be built there. No doubt the percentage that think Obama is a Muslim has risen since those comments.

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