Public Opinion in U.S. Is Undergoing Transformation on ‘Racist’ Symbols

A slight majority of Americans — 52 percent — support removing Confederate statues and monuments from public places, while 44 percent would like them to stay, according to a mid-June survey by Quinnipiac University. “A majority of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement and a record 69 percent say black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system,” according to a mid-July poll by Washington Post-ABC News. “But the public generally opposes calls to shift some police funding to social services or remove statues of Confederate generals or presidents who enslaved people.” 

Shifting police funding to social services and removing or retaining Confederate statues are, of course, local decisions and opinion would obviously be different in states that supported the Union and those that supported the Confederacy. Even so, public opinion has shifted dramatically in less than two years. Fox News: In August 2017, “just 39 percent supported the removal of Confederate statues and 50 percent opposed. The earlier survey was conducted soon after violence at a ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., attended by white supremacists and neo-Nazis grabbed national headlines.”

Voters remain evenly divided — 47 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed — to renaming military bases that honored Confederate leaders. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden favors renaming the bases while presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump opposes the renaming.

The same Quinnipiac University poll indicated that 68 percent of Americans believe racism against African Americans is still a serious problem. Similarly, 69 percent of Americans say blacks and minorities are not treated equally to whites in the criminal justice system, according to the WPost/ABC News poll.

Other thoughtful comments appeared in the NYT recently:

Joe Swain, Carrboro, NC: “Tear down statues of Confederate leaders. But monuments to the common soldiers I see as analogous to monuments to those who fell in Vietnam. Rather than tear those down, I would prefer that we erect a huge sign with Grant’s words acknowledging their sacrifice, even though they fought in ‘the worst cause’ for which anyone ever fought.

Gwin Pratt, Minneapolis MN: “I am the pastor of a Presbyterian Church. A year ago, impatient with our society, we established our own Reparations Program. Recently 3 students of color from the public high school were each awarded $1,000 scholarships for their college expenses. We are now establishing a Ending Systemic Racism Task Force, to find ways to educate ourselves about, and agitate and aggravate for an end to, systemic racism.”

 

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