A new poll by Winthrop University finds sharp divides in how black and white Southerners see Democrats and Republicans, Confederate monuments and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Poll results from 11 Southern states show both groups feel anxious after a series of high-profile and occasionally violent protests. Forty-six percent of whites polled said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that white people are under attack in the United States today, while three-fourths of blacks said racial minorities are under attack.
Across the board, Southerners said racism is the No. 1 issue facing the country, followed by politicians/government, President Donald Trump and the economy. Black Southerners were more than twice as likely to list racism as the most important problem, followed closely by Trump.
Questions about more specific issues also show a racial divide.
For example, African Americans’ views differ from others about Confederate-era monuments around the South.
Half of whites surveyed want to leave memorials to those who died in the Civil War just as they are, while 29 percent said plaques should be added to give context and historical interpretation. Only 17 percent said the memorials should be moved to museums, while half of black respondents said they should be moved to a museum.
Southerners also are uneasy about statues of Confederate leaders like Gen. Robert E. Lee or South Carolina’s Wade Hampton. Forty-eight of whites said to leave them where they are, 28 percent said add a plaque, 20 percent said to move them to a museum and 3 percent said remove them completely. Nearly half of blacks said to move them to a museum, while a fourth said to remove them completely.
Other hot-button issues also showed a racial divide:
▪ On a scale of 0 to 100 in favor-ability, black respondents in 11 Southern states gave a 70 to Black Lives Matter, which has led protests against police brutality and officer-involved shootings. White respondents rated the movement a 35.4.
▪ White respondents were more likely to have favorable views of the Confederate flag. Whites gave the flag a 49.9 rating. Black respondents only gave the flag a 16.5.
▪ No group has a positive view of white supremacists like those who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., this summer. Whites actually gave supremacists a lower ranking – 6.6 – than blacks surveyed — 7.9.
▪ Black and white Southerners split on the “antifa,” or anti-fascist movement, that has come out to oppose white nationalists, sometimes violently. Whites polled were half as likely to express a favorable view of the movement than blacks, giving it an average ranking of 21 to African Americans’ 42.
▪ Mainstream politics also shows a racial divide. Whites rate Republicans at a 52.1, versus 31.6 for blacks. African Americans rated Democrats a 63.7, while whites gave the party only a 41.
Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon highlighted a religious divide in the results. Although three-fourths of blacks surveyed said religion is important in their lives, fewer African Americans than whites agreed the United States was founded on religious principles.
“African Americans, who tend to be more devout in their Christianity, may not connect their religious beliefs to their historical beliefs, or they may see the United States as founded on slavery, which is inherently un-Christian,” Huffmon said. “Irrespective, this finding warrants more research.”
Still, Southerners aren’t divided on everything.
Overwhelmingly, respondents across the South said all races should be treated equally, and that America should protect and preserve its multicultural heritage.
Other areas of agreement included interracial marriage, where 84 percent of all Southerners disagreed that marriage should be restricted to members of the same race.
Winthrop University polled 830 residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 22 to Nov. 5. The margin of error is 3.4 percent overall; 4 percent for white respondents and 7.7 percent for black respondents.
Full survey results and methodology are available on Winthrop University’s website.
WHAT THE SOUTH THINKS
39% Say white people are under attack in this country; 48 percent of whites, 12 percent of blacks.
57% Say racial minorities are under attack in this country; 50 percent of whites, 81 percent of blacks
63% Say America is moving in the wrong direction; 55 percent of whites, 88 percent of blacks
69% Say the economy is very or fairly good; 74 percent of whites, 56 percent of blacks
51% Say America was founded as a Christian nation; 55 percent of whites, 42 percent of blacks
Source: Winthrop University