POLITICS
09/30/2015 04:38 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2015

South Carolina Residents Turn Against The Confederate Flag

Many state residents are reluctant to admit they ever supported flying it by their statehouse.

Most South Carolinians no longer think the Confederate flag should be flown on their statehouse grounds.

In a new survey from Winthrop University, 66 percent of South Carolinians approve of the state legislature's decision to remove the Confederate battle flag this summer after the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

Though clear political and racial divides remain, both a 54 percent majority of white residents and 93 percent majority of black ones thought that taking down the flag was the right call. Fifty percent of Republicans support removing the flag while 45 percent do not.

Huffington Post

The change in views among South Carolina residents mirrors a dramatic shift in the nation as a whole. A June HuffPost/YouGov survey found national support for displaying the Confederate flag down 12 points from March, with many saying for the first time that the flag represented racism more than Southern pride. 

Since then, controversy over the flag has lingered, in part over NASCAR fans' use of the symbol. Earlier this week, Republican presidential contender Ben Carson compared the flag to the Nazi swastika but described the decision to fly it as "a local issue" before waving off the topic, saying"We've already talked about the Confederate flag issue way too much."

While there's greater support for displaying the flag in public than there is for flying it on government property, opinion may have turned decisively enough to make even past support seem retroactively toxic. Forty-nine percent of South Carolinians told Winthrop that, even before this summer, they'd disapproved of keeping the Confederate battle flag flying on the statehouse grounds, while just 41 percent said they had approved. 

That, however, isn't quite what polls conducted before the shooting actually found. In a Winthrop survey last November, about 60 percent of the state's residents supported flying the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds, while just less than a third thought it should be taken down.

"The Confederate flag debate in South Carolina might have increased the social stigma of supporting the flag," pollster Scott Clement wrote in The Washington Post. "Supporters of keeping the flag were shamed during debates, and the idea of the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism was a core argument of the debate."

A plurality of the state's residents, though, remain perfectly willing to say that they don't entirely agree with that. Forty-seven percent of South Carolinians say they see the flag as an emblem of Southern pride, while 40 percent view it as a symbol of racial conflict. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans, and more than 60 percent of whites, say the flag represents the region's heritage.

Other racial divides also remain. Black residents in the state are 40 points more likely than whites to say that generations of slavery and discrimination make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class, a statement that's traditionally used in a battery of questions designed to measure levels of racial resentment.

The Winthrop poll surveyed 963 adults living in South Carolina Sept. 19-27, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.

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