New York, Oct.10 : A vast majority of American adults have heard many rumors, some of them obviously false, about presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
According to a first-of-its kind national survey of 1,015 adults, conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, the most common rumors swirled around Obama's religion, with 89 percent of those polled saying they had heard he was Muslim, and nearly two-thirds said they found the rumor believable.
More than half heard that Obama refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to display the flag, even though he usually wears a flag pin on his lapel. Two-thirds of all people have heard rumors that Obama is the anti-Christ, reports the New York Times.
People were asked if they had heard McCain had been brainwashed as a POW during the Vietnam War. One third of the people had heard this and nearly half said it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that it would be believed.
Fewer had heard that McCain had fathered a black child, a rumor that cost him the critical 2000 South Carolina primary. There was another that said that he was senile.
Republicans were more likely to have heard false rumors about Obama than Democrats heard about McCain. Ninety-two percent heard at least one anti-Obama rumor whereas 53 percent heard at least one slander against McCain, reports the paper.
The Obama campaign has launched a "Stop the Smears" campaign on its Web site to combat such rumors.
"Rumors are a very powerful form of communication. They resonate our fears," rumor expert Michael Kamins, a marketing professor at New York's Stoneybrook University, told the Scripps Howard News Service.