Most South Carolinians rate race relations in the state as only fair or worse.
But asked who is to blame and who is responsible for improving race relations, South Carolinians — black and white — are in close agreement.
Both races are equally to blame, 60 percent of whites and 61 percent of blacks say.
And both races equally are responsible for changing to improve those relations, 69 percent of whites and 73 percent of blacks say.
Those opinions were released Thursday in the latest Winthrop Poll.
That poll asked S.C. residents their opinions on race relations less than a year after a self-avowed white supremacist was accused of opening fire at a Charleston church, killing nine African Americans. That tragedy revived a contentious, decades-long debate over whether to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
Lawmakers removed the flag last summer, a decision that a majority of S.C. residents – 87 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites – told Winthrop pollsters that they support.
Among white South Carolinians, the shift in opinion over the flag has been dramatic, Winthrop found.
Asked by pollsters this month, most white South Carolinians — 51 percent — told Winthrop that before last summer’s Emanuel massacre they approved of the flag flying on the State House grounds. Now, only 41 percent of whites would continue to fly the flag.
The poll found blacks and whites differ dramatically on some issues regarding race, including what the Confederate banner represents.
In the poll, 73 percent of blacks said the flag represents racial conflict, while 26 percent of whites said the same. Fifty-seven percent of whites said the flag represents Southern pride, compared to 13 percent of blacks.
The Winthrop Poll focused on race relations in the wake of “multiple events that raised conversations about race in South Carolina” over the last year, said poll director Scott Huffmon. "The time seemed right to take an accurate measure of where race relations in South Carolina really stand.”
In the field from April 3 through April 24, the poll surveyed 814 S.C. residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
While accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was a catalyst to rapid change on the flag issue a year ago, S.C. residents say improvements in race relations overall have slowed in pace.
At least half of South Carolinians surveyed — white and black — agreed race relations are better now than they were 30 and 40 years ago. But race relations have worsened since 2006, as the state and nation headed into Great Recession, a plurality of both races said.
On some issues, white and black S.C. residents expressed more disagreement.
▪ Forty-five percent of S.C. blacks said they have been discriminated against because of their race in the past year. In contrast, one in five whites reported being discriminated against because of race.
▪ Sixty-seven percent of blacks said whites have a better chance of getting ahead in society, while 63 percent of whites said blacks and whites have an equal shot.
▪ While whites said the economy is the top issue facing the country, S.C. blacks said their top national concern is racism.
▪ Within South Carolina, whites said their top concern is the economy, while blacks said they are concerned about jobs and unemployment. Both groups said education is the No. 2 S.C. issue.
Black South Carolinians feel better about racism in South Carolina than nationally, listing it as the only the third most important issue facing the state. Whites cited jobs and unemployment as the state’s No. 3 issue.
What South Carolinians are saying about race relations:
S.C. blacks more pessimistic about race relations
85 percent of S.C. blacks say race relations are fair or poor nationally and 82 percent say the same about the state. Seventy-seven percent of whites say race relations nationally are fair or poor, while 61 percent say the same about race relations in the state.
Differences on African-American history
An overwhelming majority of S.C. blacks – 83 percent – say public schools spend too little time on black history. Among white respondents, 29 percent said schools spend too little time, 40 percent said there was the right amount and 14 percent said too much.
With, not against, the grain
Sixty-three percent of whites and 51 percent of blacks say African Americans should work within the system if they want change. But 38 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites say blacks should challenge the system or protest to encourage change.
Split on Black Lives Matter
On a scale of zero to 100, whites mostly disapprove of the Black Lives Matter movement, giving it a 38 on average. Blacks, however, approve of the movement, giving it a 75.