As debate rages in South Carolina over the Confederate flag on its statehouse property, a majority of Americans see the rebel flag as a symbol of Southern pride, not a reminder of racism, according to a new CNN/ORC poll out Thursday. Public opinion is about where it stood 15 years ago, when the Palmetto State removed the rebel St. Andrew’s cross from the Capitol dome.
But there is a stark racial divide on how the banner is perceived and what should be done about references to the Confederacy.
Among all 1,017 adults participating, 57 percent said it’s a symbol of Southern pride, 33 percent called it more a symbol of racism and 5 percent said it’s both equally. Among whites, 66 percent said it symbolizes pride, while just 17 percent of African-Americans responded that way. In May 2000, 59 percent of Americans in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll called the flag a point of regional and historical pride.
A majority of both blacks and whites said they would oppose renaming streets and highways named after Confederate leaders, with 68 percent overall in opposition.
Americans appear to be more split on whether they support private companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart, eBay and others’ decision not to sell or manufacture items featuring the flag. Just 50 percent support those measures, compared to 47 percent overall. The margin is wide among African-Americans (65 percent to 33 percent), but much smaller when it comes to whites (49 percent to 47 percent).
There is also a lack of overall support for redesigning state flags that feature Confederate emblems or symbols, like the official banners of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. Just 40 percent said they would back that, with 57 percent opposed.
At the same time, another majority (55 percent) supported removing Confederate flags from government property that is not a museum, but the racial divide grew more pronounced when respondents were asked if state flags should be redesigned (59 percent of non-Hispanic blacks support, compared to 35 percent of whites), and if tributes honoring Confederate soldiers should be removed from public places (49 percent of non-Hispanic blacks to 21 percent of whites).
The latest poll comes on the heels of another this week, by USA Today and Suffolk University, which found a more even split between those who found the flag racist and those who found it symbolic of Southern heritage. It should be noted that the question was framed slightly differently, as the 1,000 respondents were asked in that poll whether: “The confederate flag is a racist symbol and should be removed from state flags and other official locations” or “The Confederate flag is representative of Southern heritage and is not racist.” The poll found a split of 42 percent each responding either way.
The CNN/ORC poll was conducted June 26-28, surveying 1,017 Americans by telephone, carrying an overall margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. The overall sample includes 303 African-Americans with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5.5 percentage points. – politico.com