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South Polls An Embattled Emblem The rebel flag (properly, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) is increasingly an "embattled emblem," as a recent exhibit and symposium at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond recognized and illustrated. A few surveys, mostly recent ones, have asked about the flag. It appears that favorable opinions about the banner are more widespread than the flag itself. Only about one southerner in ten actually owns one, a figure not appreciably higher than that for nonsoutherners. But substantial majorities of southern respondents— better than three to one—see the flag as a symbol of regional heritage and pride; surprisingly , almost as large majorities of nonsoutherners agree. State polls in Alabama and Georgia also show large majorities in favor of flying the rebel flag over the state capítol and incorporating it into the state flag. (In 1971 a somewhat smaller majority of North Carolinians saw nothing wrong with public schools displaying the flag.) The problem is that the flag has come to mean many different things, and neither the Sons of Confederate Veterans nor the naacp has a monopoly on interpretation. The question about the meaning of the flag does reveal substantial disagreement, especiaUy between white southerners and black ones, who are more likely to see the flag as a symbol of white supremacy and racial conflict. Southerners of all sorts are less likely to feel that way about the song "Dixie," but the correlates of the two questions are similar: blacks, young people, the better educated, and migrants to the South are more likely than others to see Confederate symbols as signifying racism. Oddly, neither believing that the Civil War was about slavery or actually owning a flag of one's own "behaves" the same: blacks are less likely to believe the war was about slavery, for instance, and young people are more likely to own Confederate flags. The question about the meaning of the flag has been asked often enough that data from several surveys can be pooled to examine variation in opinion within the black and white Souths. The following table shows the ratio of those who believe the flag is a symbol of southern pride to those who believe it symbolizes racial conflict. Among blacks, that ratio is greater than one only among the old, those with less than a high school education, regular churchgoers, Republicans, and a very few other categories (these exceptions are underlined in the table). Among whites, there is no identifiable subpopulation where the ratio is less than one, although it is relatively low among political liberals, college graduates , and recent migrants to the South. AU data are from the archives of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina and can be obtained from the Institute for further analysis. 394Southern Cultures The data from December 1991 are from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution regional poU in the eleven ex-Confederate states and Kentucky. AU other data not otherwise attributed are from Southern Focus Polls conducted by the Institute. The Southern Focus PoU surveys a thirteen-state South (the same twelve states plus Oklahoma); beginning in 1993, a small sample of nonsouthem Americans was included for comparison. Totals may differ from 100 percent due to rounding enor. Southern Focus Poll (March 1993) Do you own a Confederate flag? SouthNon-South Yes (%) 11 9 No (%) 88 91 No response (%) 1 — Total number polled_______________85J)______________446______________________ State Polls (1971-1992) Survey of North Carolina Do you approve of public schools displaying the Confederate flag? Yes (%)48 No (%)29 Up to school, depends (%)15 Don't know, no response (%)8 Total number polled1,127 Capstone Poll (Alabama) Now, do you favor or oppose the state of Alabama flying the Confederate flag over the state capítol building? Lately, the Confederate flag that flies above the state capítol building has been in the news. Do you favor or oppose taking the Confederate flag down? __________________________________June 1987March 1988________________ Favor flag over state capital (%)7577 Oppose flag over state capital (%)2523 Total number polled413401 South Polls 395 Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia) Should Georgia's state flag be changed to remove the Confederate battle flag or not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 393-398
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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