The debate over the Confederate flag was ignited when Dylann Roof, a white man who was accused of fatally shooting nine black people at a church on June 17, appeared in photos holding it. This lead to the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina state Capitol.
Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a poll based on a survey of 2,002 Americans from all across the country that reveals several things, including:
- If they agree or disagree with the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina
- Why they feel it should or shouldn’t have been removed
- If they had a reaction to seeing the Confederate flag, and if so, was it positive or negative
Some of the results may not be terribly surprising to many of the liberal persuasion, but others may cause you to think.
So, how do Americans feel about the Confederate flag removal?
Surprise, surprise, a majority of Americans support the removal of the Confederate flag from government property in South Carolina.
Most Americans (57%) support the recent decision by South Carolina’s government to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds; 34% see this as the wrong decision. Though majorities of whites (56%), blacks (76%) and Hispanics (52%) say the flag’s removal was the right decision, there are more substantial partisan divides: Fully 74% of Democrats say this was the right decision, while Republicans are more divided (43% right decision, 49% wrong decision).
Clearly, there is a division along party lines and race. Also worthy of note, people more likely to support the removal include those between the age of 18-29, college graduates (76%), those in the Northeast (65%) and those in the West (61%).
Why do Americans support or oppose the removal?
You probably guessed this one – it comes down to the racism vs. heritage debate. This time they were asked an open-ended question about their feelings on the South Carolina decision. About 20% of those who thought it was the right decision said they thought it was divisive or offensive, while 36% thought it was associated with racism, slavery, or hatred. Some memorable quotes of supporters include:
- “The Confederacy represents slavery in my eyes.” Black male, 25
- “Because I think it does more to promote racism than to conserve heritage.” White male, 58
- “I think it just perpetuates an open wound…it is not a symbol that represents all of the people of that state.” Asian female, 45
- “I think that it represents something very negative and hurtful to a lot of people. And taking it down is small and beginning steps to undoing and rectifying some of that hurt.” Mixed race (White/Native American) female, 32
Of those opposed to the removal of the flag, 27% said it was a misunderstood symbol, and over half (54%) mentioned its historical significance. Some memorable quotes of opposers (almost all of whom where white) include:
- “Because it is not a symbol of racism, it is a symbol of the government fighting for freedom.”White male, 56
- “People have the right to honor their ancestors.” White female, 32
- “Because the flag had nothing to do with the shootings; it represents Southern history.” White female, 48
- “Nothing is wrong with the flag, the flag didn’t do anything.” White male, 31
Does this mean most people have a strong reaction to seeing the Confederate flag?
You might think so, but you’d be wrong. Although it varies based on race, education, region and party lines, most people claim to have no particular reaction to the flag.
People’s reactions to seeing the Confederate flag displayed are little different from opinions four years ago, on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. A majority (56%) continues to say they have no particular reaction – either positive or negative – to the display of the Confederate flag. As was the case in 2011, negative reactions outnumber positive reactions (28% vs. 13%).
You might be wondering why a majority support the Confederate flag being taken down if they have no strong personal reaction to it. The answer to this may be in the comments of those surveyed, which could be summed up as:
“I think it comes to a time when you need to move on. This country has come so far, it shouldn’t be an issue.” Black male, 41
No one is trying to erase our history. It is what it is. However, most people seem to feel that this part of our past belongs more in museums and history books, where it can be put in its proper context, than displayed on public property. Let’s move on America.
Featured image via Pixabay