Politics & Government

SC voters show less support for reparations, poll shows

A new Winthrop University poll released last week showed that South Carolina voters were less likely to support paying reparations to the decedents of slaves than the state’s residents at large.

While a majority of South Carolinian voters polled voiced support — 53% — a similar question fielded in an April Winthrop poll showed that 59% of residents stood behind the initiative.

Winthrop poll director Scott Huffmon said the difference likely comes down to civil engagement. Voters — who were measured in Tuesday’s poll — are more likely to be deeply engaged in the issues than non-voters — who were examined in April — Huffmon said.

The most stark example of that difference in support for reparations is among African American voters, 69% of which agreed with paying reparations. In April, 72% of African American respondents voiced support.

J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, said the difference may be because young African Americans vote less often than their older counterparts.

“The younger generation is more versed on reparations,” said McLawhorn who supports the idea.

Overall, though, McLawhorn said he did not think the difference in support was concerning or significant.

The number of white respondents who opposed the measure decreased significantly. In the latest poll, 45% stood against it. But in April, that number was 75%.

Overall, 78% of Republican voters said they were against reparations.

“Reparations is nothing new,” McLawhorn said.

“We have a history, certainly in this country, of paying reparations to people who have been exploited,” he added, pointing to compensation paid to more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in American internment camps during World War II.

The most recent Winthrop poll also examined how South Carolina voters feel about monuments and memorials to Confederate soldiers and causes.

Overall, only 15% of South Carolina voters voiced support for leaving the monuments where they stand. Conversely, about 57% of GOP voters voiced support for the memorials.

About half of African American voters preferred to move the monuments into museums, and 20% voiced support for leaving them where they stand, but adding a historical plaque or marker for context. Only 9% of black voters supported taking the Confederate monuments down completely.

On the other hand, 31% of white voters favored adding a historical marker and 39% supported leaving them up. About 13% favored removing the statues completely.

“It appears that white Democrats feel it’s about telling an honest story about these monuments,” Huffmon said. “African Americans are more likely to say, ‘I want it out of my sight.’”

Pollsters at Winthrop interviewed 462 Democratic or left-leaning registered voters and 406 of their Republican counterparts. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6%, according to Winthrop officials.

Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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