Is President Obama secretly a radical Islamic fundamentalist here to impose a tribal system of law on the American public?

Ask any Republican and there's more than a 50 percent chance they'll say "yes," if a recent Newsweek survey is to be believed.

While the questionnaire, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, focused mainly on approval of the president, his party and their policies, poll-takers also focused on one particular issue of current public discussion: the president's religion.

The White House insisted recently that President Obama is a devout Christian, and has been all of his adult life. The comments came after a poll found approximately one in five Americans mistakenly believes him to be a Muslim.

The Newsweek survey's results [PDF link] show that one in four Americans believe the president to be a Muslim, with an additional 34 percent saying he's "something else" or that they do not know.

Just 42 percent said President Obama is a Christian: a figure that's actually dropped by 19 percent from this same time two years ago. However, 61 percent of respondents placed their opinion of Muslim Americans as either "favorable" or "very favorable."

A further 72 percent said it would be fine with them if a Muslim congregation wanted to build a mosque in their community.

Overall, 62 percent of respondents believe that "many" or "most" people of the Islamic faith do not condone violence.

But when it comes to breaking down the results by political affiliation, a wide schism in the electorate becomes apparent.

The survey-takers asked:

Thinking about Barack Obama and what he has said about issues like the proposal to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York City… Do you think Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other groups of Americans, or do you think he has generally been even-handed?

A clear majority of Republicans, 59 percent, said President Obama favors Muslim interests over those of everyone else. By contrast, just 9 percent of Democrats felt that way.

Then, questioners asked:

Some people have alleged that Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world. From what you know about Obama, what is your opinion of these allegations?

Shockingly, 52 percent of Republicans answered "definitely true" or "probably true," compared to 27 percent of independent voters and 17 percent of Democrats.

"There is a mechanism, a network of misinformation, that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly," Obama said in a recent interview with NBC Nightly News.

"I'm not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there," the president continued. "If I spend all my time chasing after that then I wouldn't get much done."

He also mocked conservatives who believe him to be a secret Kenyan operative, quipping that he cannot walk around with a birth certificate on his forehead. The Obama campaign released his birth certificate during the 2008 campaigns. It was later validated by Hawaii officials and confirmed in birth announcements carried by local newspapers at the time.

A whisper campaign about Obama's faith can be traced back to 2004, shortly after he gave a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention, as they were nominating Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to run against President George W. Bush.

That rumor originated with Andy Martin, an Illinois resident and perennial candidate for various public offices. Though a law school graduate, the state's bar association blocked his certification as an attorney in the 1970s, citing a psychological profile that assessed him as suffering from a "moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character," according to The New York Times.

His smear of Obama's Christian faith was carried in a 2004 press release that made rounds on right-wing blogs after being picked up by conservative Internet forum Free Republic. Finally, in 2008, Fox News granted Martin a shot at fame, allowing him to make the allegation without evidence or challenge during a program that the Times reported to have garnered over 3 million viewers.

"It was not Mr. Martin's first turn on national television," the Times noted. "The CBS News program '48 Hours' in 1993 devoted an hour long program, 'See You in Court; Civil War, Anthony Martin Clogs Legal System with Frivolous Lawsuits,' to what it called his prolific filings. (Mr. Martin has also been known as Anthony Martin-Trigona.) He has filed so many lawsuits that a judge barred him from doing so in any federal court without preliminary approval."

During the Fox News broadcast, Martin changed his story about Obama being a Muslim, telling Fox News personality Sean Hannity that the president was secretly born to a black revolutionary in the 1960s, by the name of Frank Marshall Davis.

Davis was a black poet and political activist in the 1920s and 30s who moved to Hawaii in 1948 and wrote for a newspaper which the House Un-American Activities Committee accused of being a Communist front. Right-wing websites have been claiming since last winter that Davis was not only a Communist Party member but also the mentor to Obama in his teen years, whom he refers to in his autobiography as "Frank."

Martin offered no evidence to support his claim. The allegation at that time appeared to be an effort to bolster Republicans' strategy to paint then-Senator Obama as sympathetic to terrorists.

Frivolous rumors of the president's allegiance have persisted across right-wing media and blogs ever since.

Appearing on NBC Sunday night, Obama did not seem fazed.

"We dealt with this when I was first running for the US Senate," he said. "We dealt with it when we were first running for the presidency. There were those who said I couldn't win as US senator because I had a funny name.

"Yet, we ended up winning that Senate seat in Illinois because I trusted in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense and focus on, 'is this somebody who cares about me and cares about my family, and has a vision for the future?'

"And so, I will always put my money on the American people," he concluded.

The Princeton survey of 1,029 adults carried a margin of error at plus or minus 3.7 percent.

With AFP. Additional reporting by RAW STORY.