Nearly half of the members in a focus group of Republicans put together by Fox News say they don’t trust President Barack Obama’s response to the Egypt crisis because they believe he’s a Muslim.
The Iowa-based group were asked by influential Republican ‘message guru’ Frank Luntz for their views on Mr Obama’s pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
The meeting with the focus group was broadcast on Sean Hannity’s programme Monday night.
After a question by Mr O’Reilly about the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in forming a government in Egypt, Mr Luntz asked why they all seemed to have such a negative reaction to Obama’s answers, iowaindependent.com reports.
One woman said she believed the president’s religious convictions guide his policies. When asked to clarify, she said, ‘I believe that he is a Muslim.’
When Luntz asked the rest of the group how many believed Obama is Muslim, about a dozen, or nearly half, raised their hands.
‘Now do you understand the implications of what you’re saying here?’ Mr Luntz asked. ‘What the media’s going to say about this group and about the Iowa Caucus voters in the future. Do you realise what you’re opening up here?’
Some members of the focus group described Obama’s religious belief as ‘liberalism,’ ‘the most intolerant of all.’
This isn’t the first time Iowa has made headlines for comments about the president’s faith.
Kim Lehman, one of the state’s three representatives on the Republican National Committee, publicly questioned the president’s religion last summer. Other Iowa Republicans joined in, with state Sen. Sandy Greiner saying she respects the point of view of anyone who says the president is a Muslim.
Mr Luntz’s focus panels have been criticized for being too Right-wing to be an accurate representation of Americans. Last year the phrase ‘government takeover of health care’ was attributed to Mr. Luntz.
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, meanwhile, has found that 51 per cent of Americans expect President Obama to lose his 2012 re-election bid, with 46 per cent expecting him to win.
Twenty six per cent of voters said they will definitely vote for Mr. Obama in the 2012 election, while 23 per cent will probably vote for him. Thirty five per cent said they will not vote for him and 16 per cent they will probably not.
Republican supporters were asked who theyb would like to lead the GOP at the next election.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee topped the list of preferred candidates at 21 per cent, with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on 19 per cent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was close behind with support from 18 per cent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich followed with 10 per cent.
But just 13 percent expect Huckabee to win the GOP nomination. A quarter of Republican voters expect Romney to win, while 24 per cent expect Palin to win.
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