Southern pride or symbol of racism?

October 17, 2013, 2:36 PM GMT+0

More Americans see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride than racism, but many disapprove of its display in public.

A protest over the government shutdown and the closure of Washington's WWII memorials sparked controversy recently, when a protester was photographed displaying a Confederate flag outside the White House. Some commentators argued it is inappropriate to bring a symbol of Southern rebellion to a protest regarding US Army memorials, while others called it potentially hostile or even racist to wave the Confederate flag in front of the place where Barack Obama lives -- or, as one commentator put it, "outside the home of a black family".

YouGov research shows that while more Americans think that the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride (35%) than think it is a symbol of racism (24%), there is a wide partisan divide in opinion. 43% of Democrats think that the Confederate flag is primarily a symbol of racism, while the majority of Republicans (56%) think that it is instead a symbol of Southern pride, and only 20% say that it is either both a symbol of Southern pride and racism (16%) or just racist (4%).

There is also, unsurprisingly, a divide between the opinions of white Americans and black Americans towards the meaning of the Confederate flag. Many white people (42%) believe that the flag is primarily a symbol of Southern pride, while many black people (38%) see it as being exclusively a symbol of racism, while another 28% of black Americans view it as both a symbol of racism and a symbol of Southern pride.

It is interesting to note that there is no major regional differences in terms of this symbolism, in stark contrast to the era when the Confederate flag originated. When asked if the Confederate flag stands for racism or Southern pride, 37% of people from the South answered Southern pride along with 34% of people who live in the North, 31% in the West, and 39% in the Midwest.

When asked whether or not it is right to display the Confederate flag in public places, many leaned towards disapproval (38%), or having no preference (34%). Only 20% of people said that they approve of displaying the Confederate flag in public places. Significantly, a majority of black Americans - 54% - disapprove of flying the confederate flag in public places, while only 12% approve.

There is also an absence of regional differences in approval for displaying the Confederate flag. Surprisingly, however, it is not the South, but the Northeast with the highest approval rating at 23% - though this is only marginally higher than the 21% of Southerners who agree. The West, where only 16% say that they approve of it, is the least likely to back displaying the Confederate flag.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty.

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