Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In this Politico Article dated 8/5/10 the results of a poll taken on President Obama are discussed:

The poll of 1,018 adults shows 27 percent of Americans believe the president was “probably” or “definitely” born in another country, compared with 71 percent who think he was born in the United States.

So 1 in 4 Americans do not believe that President Obama is really a natural born citizen.

Is there any evidence to back up the Birther claims that Obama is not a natural born citizen?

share|improve this question
Arnold Schwarzenegger for President in 2012! – Paul Mar 26 '11 at 6:15
For laughs here's an older version of the same question on yahoo answers Q: Is Barack Obama a natural born citizen? Was his legal name changed when he was adopted? A: "He appears to have been born in Kenya. the birth certificate he produced is FAKE..." – Mark Rogers Mar 26 '11 at 15:24
Daily Show: The Born Identity – rjstelling Mar 26 '11 at 16:12
Just because it's not in the Constitution doesn't mean that it is undefined. There is an operating legal definition determined through judicial review: Legislation and executive branch policy – jennyfofenny Apr 27 '11 at 18:18
It's probably worth noting that Obama's 2008 election opponent John McCain was born outside the United States but is still considered a natural born citizen. – Bruce Alderman Sep 19 '11 at 19:42
up vote 91 down vote accepted

One piece of evidence is the long-form birth certificate showing that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu on Hawaii: (long-form on in PDF format)

enter image description here

The reissued short-form birth certificate:

enter image description here

You can find a detailed examination of the birth certificate on They conclude in their investigation staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, Chiyome Fukino, also confirmed that the certificate is genuine:

"I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai'i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai'i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai'i and is a natural-born American citizen," Fukino said in a statement. "I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008, over eight months ago." -- source

The Barack Obama birth announcement, published in The Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961:

newspaper clipping of Obama's birth

share|improve this answer
...just as a comment (an anecdotal one): The format of Obama's Certificate is the same as the one I have for my niece, when I requested her "Birth Certificate" from Hawaii 5 years ago. That IS the certificate they give out. – Darwy Mar 26 '11 at 7:22
There are also the newspaper announcements from 1961 in Hawaii. Would take quite the conspiracy to put those in. – Larian LeQuella Mar 26 '11 at 14:22
But it doesn't say whether he was natural born or by caesarean section. – Paul Mar 26 '11 at 17:48
@jwenting I don't see any signs of whiteout on the one posted above. Not to mention ample other evidence (such as the notice in the paper). It sounds like you're less 'wanting to be convinced' and more 'unwilling to concede the point despite the evidence'. – Nick Johnson Apr 5 '11 at 0:57
@jwenting You are seriously suggesting that the massive power of the US presidency wanted to forge a birth certificate, and the best they could do was Tip-Ex? – DJClayworth Apr 27 '11 at 16:15

There is a simple (legal) answer to this question, but it won't satisfy the conspiracy theorists.

  1. Obama has released his birth certificate, and the State of Hawaii confirms that it is real. op cit - previous answers
  2. Article 4 of the US Constitution states, in part,

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. emphasis mine

What this means, is that Barack Obama is a natural born citizen solely for the reason that Hawaii says he is. No other argument is necessary or required. The only way to counter this argument is to have Hawaii repeal the certificate.

I realize that this doesn't answer the implied question "Where was Barack Obama really born?" But it does shoot a hole into any Arizona laws intending to keep Obama off the ballot. If Hawaii says he's eligible, then Arizona has to respect that.

share|improve this answer

While the constitution does state that to be president, one must be a "natural born citizen", it in NO WAY defines what that term means. So we are left with something of a legal void.

There is the Part of the U.S. Code that address this. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, being born in Kansas, was a natural born citizen (I don't believe there is any question on that point).

Section (e) of the code above stats:

(e) a person born in an outlying possession of the United States of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year at any time prior to the birth of such person;

So, regardless of where he was born (Hawaii or Kenya as some have claimed but provided little if any evidence), he is a citizen.

However, the U.S. Title only states that "The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth", and does not use the phrase "natural born".

There is no final, legal definition even today on what "Natural Born Citizen" means, according to legal professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin:

Unfortunately, the text of the Constitution does not define natural born citizenship, and neither the Supreme Court nor Congress has weighed in on the question.

share|improve this answer
Apparently, people don't like my answer. I'm curious as to why. There is no legal, accepted answer to what a "natural born citizen" is. I am not saying he shouldn't (or wasn't) eligible. What i was trying to say was that since there is no agreed upon definition of "natural born citizen", the question is meaningless. – fred Mar 26 '11 at 20:13
It seems reasonable to me to assume that the 1787 Constitutional Convention found the term natural born to be self-evident. If you ignore the term natural entirely, this would cover everyone who is simply born into citizenship via jus soli or jus sanguinis. I'm curious if you think a reasonable argument can be made that the term natural could modify natural born enough to disqualify Barack Obama. (FWIW, I did not mark down your answer.) – kojiro Mar 26 '11 at 22:03
I have never doubted he was eligible. I was just trying to point out that there is no official, legal definition that everyone agrees with, as that exact phrase is never used in the constitution or any court case of which I am aware. Since that is the case, different people will interpret it how they see fit. One other point - the mere existence of a birth certificate may not be proof. I have a birth certificate for my daughter issued by the state of MO, listing me an my wife as the birth parents, even though she was born in China 2 years before I ever saw her. – fred Mar 27 '11 at 16:20
@fred- Also "Since there is no final, legal definition even today on what those few words mean, the debate will continue.", that hasn't been my experience living in the US, can you provide a link that backs-up this claim? Specifically why do you think that this legal question is still "up in the air", for all defacto purposes it appears settled. – Mark Rogers Mar 27 '11 at 18:02
@Mark There is no possible way I can prove that the term is NOT defined. And just because my interpretation is 'unusual' or 'something that many people do not believe' doesn't mean it is wrong. My ONLY point here is that nobody has yet provided the DEFINITIVE, LEGAL definition of what "natural born citizen" means, discussing whether someone IS or ISN'T is pointless. – fred Apr 27 '11 at 15:47

This is what a full birth certificate looks like:

A long/complete birth certificate

Contrasted to this kind of certificate, there is the short birth certificate, sometimes called computer certificate, which is printed from a computer database when requested. This kind of document is much easier to falsify, by, e.g., inserting data in a computer terminal. A man was caught doing that some years ago, and the case was settled by looking at the original/handwritten document, hence its importance.

Much of the suspicion over Obama comes from his refusal of presenting the longer version: good lawyers are particularly expensive and G-d knows how much money he has spend with this issue. This is atypical and suspicious behavior that simply cannot be ignored by any reasonable man. Put in another way, his onerous refusal of showing a document that could prove the authenticity of his computerized certificate is enough reason to doubt its validity

Factcheck checked for signatures and such things but its analysis does not consider the possibility that the data from which the computer certificate was generated was adultered, so it would not detect the fraudulent certificates discovered in 2004. Furthermore, what Chiyome Fukino, the Hawaiian doctor who has actually seen his certificate, testifies is that the long certificate exists, not that its data matches the digital version.

Even with a non-accessible but existing birth certificate, it doesn't follow that Obama was born in Hawaii, as the state of Hawaii at the time of Obama's birth allowed births that took place in foreign countries to be registered in Hawaii, according to the text of a petition.

share|improve this answer
@Konr while persons born outside of the US could have their birth registered in Hawaii, the PLACE of BIRTH on the certificate would NOT be HAWAII - it would be wherever that person was born. – Darwy Mar 27 '11 at 19:17
@konr So you're suggesting: "A pregnant woman leaves her home to go overseas to have a child — who there’s not a passport for — so is in cahoots with someone…to smuggle that child, that previously doesn’t exist on a government roll somewhere back into the country and has the amazing foresight to place birth announcements in the Hawaii newspapers? All while this is transpiring in cahoots with those in the border, all so some kid named Barack Obama could run for President 46 and a half years later." - Robert Gibbs – jennyfofenny Mar 28 '11 at 14:04
@Konr Fear of what? The MIB? She has seen the document, therefore she is right to say that it exists. She doesn't have to say anything else, and she SHOULDN'T say anything else. The copy provided was certified as being genuine. Had there been any alterations, she would have been the darling of many ultra-conservatives and probably placed into protective custody for her own safety! – Darwy Mar 28 '11 at 21:46
in what state does a birth certificate look like the above? Mine certainly doesn't (I was born in NY) – warren Mar 29 '11 at 15:43
That certificate appears to be from the Center for Disease Control — possibly an older version of the ironically-less-frilly 2003 version, which dispenses with the official-looking pomposity of the one above. But the important thing is, this isn't a form for proving citizenship. It's a form for data sharing between states and the federal government, in the interest of providing statistical health information. That's why it's from the CDC. See for details. – mattdm Apr 28 '11 at 23:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.