Poll: Majority sees Confederate flag as Southern pride symbol, not racist

American public opinion on the Confederate flag remains about where it was 15 years ago, with most describing the flag as a symbol of Southern pride more than one of racism, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. And questions about how far to go to remove references to the Confederacy from public life prompt broad racial divides.

The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race, and among whites, views are split by education.

Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree. In the South, the racial divide is even broader. While 75% of Southern whites describe the flag as a symbol of pride and 18% call it a symbol of racism, those figures are almost exactly reversed among Southern African-Americans, with just 11% seeing it as a sign of pride and 75% viewing it as a symbol of racism.

Among whites, there’s a sharp divide by education, and those with more formal education are less apt to see the flag as a symbol of pride. Among whites with a college degree, 51% say it’s a symbol of pride, 41% one of racism. Among those whites who do not have a college degree, 73% say it’s a sign of Southern pride, 18% racism.

Efforts to remove the flag or other references to the Confederacy from public places have emerged in the weeks since nine African-American churchgoers were killed by a white man who said he was trying to start a race war in a Charleston church. But the poll shows the public is mixed on how far those efforts should go, and nearly all flag-related questions reveal broad racial divides.

A majority favors removing the Confederate flag from government property that isn’t part of a museum: 55% support that while 43% are opposed. And half support private companies choosing not to sell or manufacture items featuring the Confederate flag: 50% are in favor, 47% opposed.

But most oppose other efforts, including redesigning state flags that feature Confederate emblems or symbols to remove references to the Confederacy (57% oppose that), renaming streets and highways named after Confederate leaders (68% oppose that) and removing tributes to those who fought for the Confederacy from public places (71% oppose that).

Among African-Americans, however, most favor removing flags from government property (73%), private companies stopping the sale or manufacture of products featuring the flag (65%) and redesigning state flags that feature Confederate references to remove them (59%).

And although there aren’t significant age gaps in the poll overall on questions about the flag, younger African-Americans are more likely to favor some proposals than older ones.

African-Americans age 54 or younger are more likely than older African-Americans to support removing Confederate flags from government property (80% among those age 54 or younger, 63% among those age 55 or older); private companies choosing not to sell or manufacture items featuring the flag (71% among younger African-Americans vs. 54% among older ones); and redesigning state flags to remove references to the Confederacy (64% favor that among African-Americans age 54 or younger compared with 54% among older ones).

Among whites overall, not a single one of the five tested proposals has majority support. But here, too, an education divide emerges, with whites holding college degrees more apt than those without degrees to support removing confederate flags from government property (68% among those whites with degrees, 42% among those without); private companies discontinuing sale or manufacture of items featuring the flag (59% vs. 44%); and redesigning state flags to remove references to the Confederacy (49% vs. 28% among whites without college degrees).

Most Americans, black and white, do agree that the shootings in Charleston should be considered a hate crime: 92% of African-Americans and 86% of whites say it should be called a hate crime.

But there is less agreement on whether it was an act of terrorism. Overall, 41% say the shootings were terrorism. Most whites say it was not terrorism (61%), while most African-Americans say it was (55%).

The CNN/ORC poll was conducted June 26-28 among a random national sample of 1,017 adults. Additional interviews were conducted with African-Americans and combined with those reached through the initial sample of 1,017 for a total of 303 non-Hispanic black respondents. The margin of sampling error for all adults is +/- 3 percentage points, for results among blacks it is +/- 5.5 percentage points. Results among the 727 non-Hispanic whites reached in the initial sample have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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7 thoughts on “Poll: Majority sees Confederate flag as Southern pride symbol, not racist

  1. Qualia

    There are some things that go beyond, “let the states decide”, as with the German flag, the swastika, the confederate flag represents a bit more than the model of a car. Any attempt to water down the meaning by comparison to benign symbols is support for what that flag means at its core. As people cling to that flag they also cling to what it actually represents.

    • Dieselrider

      Just what do you think it means? It is not the official confederate flag of the civil war. It’s just another inanimate object that some narrow minded people attempt to blame for something that is totally unrelated.

      • Qualia

        People cling to symbols, its human nature, symbols are far from meaningless as every company that has sued to maintain their trademark symbols knows, it does not matter what it “actually” was used for. For many in the south it’s a symbol of a lost way of life. Just as Hitler absconded with the swastika (an ancient Chinese symbol) the KKK, Aryans and other racist groups have adopted the confederate flag, it now for the most part represents hate and racism, a superior attitude placing white people as a superior race and all others as inferior. It represents slavery, ignorance and racism today. It continues to be chosen by those unwilling to accept the defeat of the south and the loss of their “freedom” to own people, to treat people as different classes, therefore different privilege, depending on their color. It has since been expanded to represent the discrimination against anyone who is “different”. It’s often accepted by conservatives as a symbol of the battle for “freedom” from Federal Government “interference” in how they would choose to live their lives and treat others.

          • Qualia

            Try again, the same symbol means different things to different people, for those who use it as a symbol of hate it means the loss of the right (freedom) to discriminate based on race, symbolic solidarity with those who fought to maintain slavery in the past. You’re right, they are skewed.

  2. Ward11

    The symbol of this particular flag goes further than ones opinion. The history of the flag is not the battle flag flown during battle by Robert E. Lee. Only that battle flag is the symbol of the Civil War. Maybe the bigger question is why is not the memorabilia of the Civil War laid to rest with collectors or museum of memorabilia as is all from all wars.
    We have had several wars since that time and continue to have wars.

    This battle flag is the flag used by the KKK who came to power again in the south during the 30’s.

    Because the Civil War was a war by the disgruntled south who wanted to remain free from Washington and the presidents of the north and become a separate country and secede so when Lincoln decided to free the slaves then this was the last straw for the south to free the slaves cause the slaves were free employment that made them rich plus the slaves did the housework and cared for the children for the whites so they turned on the north and choose to secede from the union. Till this day many southerners hate “yankees” and anyone who’s roots are not born and bred in the south.
    The south could not change so change has come to the south because the south has become a melting pot of peoples from all over the country and world. Now with business’s moved to the south they also support removal of this flag. Boeing, Sears Walmart and Ebay were the first to stand for removal of the battle flag with many others to follow. The Civil War is over.

    Only 2 flags should fly in South Carolina as all states–the American flag and the state flag for this is one country with one flag of the United States of America –united not divided as is reminded –United we stand divided we fall. Worse yet many of those flying this battle flag have no clue or understanding or education of the civil war to really understand what they are doing. All they know its a war their “great grandpappy fought in and those yankees burned the south down.” Just as politically the south was democratic till Civil Rights and then the majority turned republican. There were republicans that had children to the slaves. Senator Strom Thrumond being one of them–who cared for and paid for his black daughter and her education. Who was democrat and because he fought against integration turned republican when Civil Rights Act was passed and who’s black daughter is a symbol of this country’s racial history and said she would never be completely free till the world knew who she was. Thus coming forward in 2003 declaring Stom her birthright father. With his wife declaring to those who refused to believe or said –“that’s a lie” stood up and said no its the truth.

    Put the flag to rest with the memorabilia.

  3. Dieselrider

    Seeing how every symbol could be offensive to someone IE. Ford owners may be offended by Chevy emblems or GM owners might be offended by Dodge emblems, Perhaps the best way to handle this is eliminate all symbols and brands that way nothing could be offensive to anyone. What would NASCAR do if all the cars were advertisement and emblem free? ” The red car just passed the blue car and one of the yellow cars is running third”.

    Or perhaps we could just leave it up to the States to decide what is right for them.

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