Polls Find Little Support For Confederate Statue Removal -- But How You Ask Matters

And more of the latest polling news.
The statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is shown covered in black tarp as Dr. Wes Bellamy, the vice mayor of Charlottesville, takes a photo in the Virginia city on Wednesday.
The statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is shown covered in black tarp as Dr. Wes Bellamy, the vice mayor of Charlottesville, takes a photo in the Virginia city on Wednesday.
Justin Ide / Reuters

Americans are generally unsupportive of attempts to remove memorials honoring Confederate leaders, new polling shows ― although the way the question is framed may make a significant difference.

In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, a third of Americans favor removing statues and memorials of Confederate leaders, with 49 percent opposed. Just 29 percent of Americans favor changing the names of streets, schools and buildings commemorating Confederate leaders, while half are opposed.

Those surveyed are effectively split on whether the Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride (36 percent) or racism (35 percent), with the rest unsure or saying it represents neither. But even if Americans don’t overwhelmingly recognize the flag as a symbol of racism, there’s also little widespread enthusiasm for its use. Just 34 percent of Americans say they approve of displaying the Confederate flag in public, while 47 percent disapprove.

Opinions on the Confederate memorials are divided along racial lines, but to an even greater degree along political ones. Black Americans are 18 percentage points likelier than white Americans to favor removing statues of Confederate leaders ― but the gap between Democrats and Republicans on the question is 46 points. And the difference between Hillary Clinton voters and those who supported President Donald Trump in last year’s election is a full 58 points.

Within the Democratic Party, white and black people are about equally likely to favor removing the statues: 64 percent and 63 percent, respectively, say they’d like to see them taken down. There are differences, however, by ideology among the party’s members ― 77 percent of self-described liberal Democrats, but just 40 percent of self-described moderates or conservatives ― want to see the statues removed.

Most other surveys released in the past few weeks find at best modest support for removing Confederate memorials, although two distinctively-worded questions stand out in these results.


The strongest support for keeping memorials in place came in the poll conducted by Marist for NPR and PBS NewsHour, which gave respondents a choice between letting statues “remain as a historical symbol” and removing them “because they are offensive to some people.” (Arguably, the question might have been better balanced had the first option been written as “because some people view them as a historical symbol.”)

The only poll to find majority support for removing some monuments, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, adopted a framework far more sympathetic to the monuments’ opponents, asking about their “relocation” rather than their “removal.”

PPP found voters split ― 39 percent to 34 percent ― on whether they “support or oppose monuments honoring the Confederacy.” But those voters were largely willing to relocate Confederate monuments if the issue was instead presented as an attempt to move them “to museums or other historic sites where they can be viewed in proper historical context.” Unlike other questions, PPP also asked specifically about memorials on government property, rather than a broader question about public spaces.

Opinions surrounding Confederate symbols have also proved to be fairly mutable in response to current events. After a white supremacist killed nine members of a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago, support for the Confederate flag dropped quickly and significantly.

That doesn’t appear to have happened yet following the violence earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked by a white nationalist rally opposing efforts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. But if the issue remains a flashpoint in the days to come, its prominence could possibly polarize views even further than they already are. (Charlottesville on Wednesday draped black shrouds over the Lee statue and one for Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.)

Since Trump took office, Democrats have repeatedly rallied around opinions that serve as anti-Trump shibboleths, expressing sharply increased alarm about global warming, mistrust of Russia and support for immigration. While Democrats are already generally in favor of taking down the Confederate statues, their level of support for doing so ranges between 45 percent and 72 percent in recent surveys ― far lower than the party’s almost unanimous dislike for the president.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:


WHAT VIRGINIANS THINK ABOUT CHARLOTTESVILLE - MassINC, on a poll of Virginia voters: “Many Virginia voters (47 percent) believe the counterprotesters in Charlottesville deserve at least equal blame for the violence at last week’s white nationalist rally. … Though more voters agree with Trump on assigning blame for violence at the rally, just 30 percent approve of his overall handling of the incident. This includes 66 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents, and 3 percent of Democrats. ... Virginia voters are far more likely to see Confederate monuments as symbols of Southern heritage (52 percent) rather than racism (25 percent). In keeping with this view, just 28 percent say they should be removed from public property, while 51 percent believe the monuments should stay. [MassINC]

FAKE POLLS ARE A REAL PROBLEM - Harry Enten: “Is Kid Rock leading the U.S. Senate race in Michigan? A story like that is essentially designed to go viral, and that’s exactly what happened when Delphi Analytica released a poll fielded from July 14 to July 18. ... There was just one problem: Nobody knew if the poll was real. Delphi Analytica’s website came online July 6, mere weeks before the Kid Rock poll was supposedly conducted. The pollster had basically no fingerprint on the web. Indeed, Delphi Analytica isn’t a polling firm in any traditional sense, and it’s not entirely clear they even conducted the poll as advertised. ... If you’re a political observer interested in polls or a journalist who writes about them, you need to be more careful than ever.″ [538]


Trump job approval among all Americans: 38% approve, 56% disapprove

Trump job approval among Democrats: 9% approve, 87% disapprove

Trump job approval among Republicans: 79% approve, 16% disapprove

Trump job approval among independents: 36% approve, 53% disapprove

Generic House: 42% Democratic candidate, 36% Republican candidate

Obamacare favorability: 46% favor, 40% oppose

‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-A slew of national pollsters have new numbers on Charlottesville, President Trump, and other curent events. [NPR, CBS, Reuters, WashPost, PRRI, PPP (D), Politico, Marist, Quinnipiac, Monmouth, NBC]

-Very few Americans are mourning Steve Bannon’s ouster from the White House. [HuffPost]

-Roanoke College gives Democrat Ralph Northam a 7-point lead in the Virginia gubernatorial race. [Roanoke]

-An Opinion Savvy poll for Decision Desk HQ finds Roy Moore leading Luther Strange in Alabama’s GOP primary Senate runoff. [DDHQ]

-Aaron Blake analyzes some approval numbers shared by Trump’s campaign pollster. [WashPost]

-Ryan Struyk checks in on Trump’s ratings in the Rust Belt. [CNN]

-Kristen Soltis Anderson (R) estimates that Trump’s base makes up about a quarter of the electorate. [Washington Examiner]

-Philip Bump compiles viewpoints on what Trump’s approval rating means for him; so does Byron York. [WashPost, Washington Examiner]

-David Byler attempts to assess Kid Rock’s chances in Michigan. [RCP]

-Frank Newport and Brandon Busteed dig into Republicans’ antipathy toward higher education. [Gallup]

-Margie Omero (D) offers a pollster’s view on racial animus. [The Hill]

-John Gramlich takes a look at the inner working of Pew Research’s survey of Muslim Americans. [Pew]

-Buzzfeed is signing a deal with Decision Desk to provide election results. [Poynter]

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 15-16 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.


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