HomeWorld NewsHow the Confederacy Still Divides America

How the Confederacy Still Divides America

The Civil War is over. The fight over Confederate symbols and the prevalence of racism? Not so much.

A bare majority of Americans also back renaming schools that were named for Confederate leaders or changing school mascots that have racist connotations.

But there are divides among groups of Americans on those issues – and it’s not by region, as was the case in the Civil War. It’s by race and party affiliation, with whites and Republicans far less helpful of rejecting Confederate symbols.

“Certainly since 2016, the partisan fights are less about policy than they are about different visions of American identity,” says Robert T. Jones, president of PRRI and a leading scholar on matters of race, religion and politics.

The survey results “do track straight back to those fundamental questions: Is this a white, Christian country? Or a pluralistic democracy where everyone has equal footing?”

For example, 54% of Americans back some kind of Confederate monuments reform, including 24% who are strongly in favor, the report found. There was little difference among the states – with 22% of those in Southern states strongly supporting reform, compared to 25% of people in the rest of the country who feel that way.

But just 3% of Republicans were strongly in favor of moving or adding context to Confederate monuments and statues compared to 43% of Democrats who strongly back reform. There was a division along racial lines, too, with 45% of Blacks and 19% of whites strongly favoring reform.

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White evangelical Protestants were least likely to favor dramatic action, with 44% saying the monuments should be left in place as-is and another 40% supporting leaving them there with a plaque or some other context for visitors. Another 12% want the monuments moved to a museum and 2% want them removed and destroyed.

And while half of Americans see the Confederate flag as a sign of Southern pride (47% see it as a symbol of racism), 83% of Republicans nationwide see the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride instead of racism. A quarter of Democrats and 48% of Independents sided with the “pride” argument.

Half of Americans support changing school mascots that use Native American names or images without permission or have racist connotations. But party and racial divides exist there, as well: 71% of Democrats, 23% of Republicans and 53% of independents want the school mascots changed. Broken down by race, 65% of Black and 45% of white people favor changing the mascots.

The survey results sync with other polls showing Republicans are worried about the status of white Christians in America. A recent Politico poll found that 61% of Republicans (and 17% of Democrats) support the declaration of the United States as a Christian nation. Candidates and lawmakers such as Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have bluntly declared themselves “Christian nationalists.”

“We have gone from 54% white and Christian (in population) to 44% since the beginning of [former President Barack] Obama’s time in office,” Jones says. “The symbol of a Black president at the same time the country is shifting from being majority white and Christian – even if people didn’t know the statistics, they felt that shift” and reacted to it , he says.

However, Jones says, there are also signs that the country is welcoming the diversity, even whole certain groups feel as though they are being pushed into the minority. Nearly all Americans surveyed – 94% – agreed with the statement that “public spaces in our community should be open and welcoming to people of all races and backgrounds.” There was very little difference among races or political persuasion on that question.

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