Civil War at 150: Still Relevant, Still Divisive

Pew Research Center, April 8, 2011

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Racial Differences in Reactions to Confederate Flag

Americans say they display the Confederate flag, but that symbol of the Southern cause elicits more negative reactions from some groups–especially African Americans, Democrats and the highly educated. Nevertheless, most Americans say they do not react positively or negatively when they see the Confederate flag.

Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) say they display the Confederate flag in places such as their home or office, on their car or on their clothing; 91% say they do not. The number that displays the Confederate flag is just a small fraction of the 75% who say they display the American flag in their homes or offices, on their cars or their clothing.

Far more African Americans than whites have a negative reaction to the Confederate flag (41% to 29%). Still, about as many blacks have no reaction (45%) as a negative reaction to the Confederate flag. Among whites, 61% have no reaction.

Whites who consider themselves Southerners have a more positive reaction to the Confederate flag than do other whites: 22% say they react positively when they see the Confederate flag displayed, compared with 8% of all whites and just 4% of whites who do not consider themselves Southerners.

Nearly half of those with at least a college degree (46%) say they have a negative reaction to the display of the Confederate flag, compared with a third (33%) of those with some college experience and just 18% of those with a high school diploma or less.

There also are partisan differences in reactions to the flag: about twice as many Democrats (44%) as Republicans (21%) react negatively to displays of the Confederate flag. And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have a positive reaction to the flag (15% vs. 7%).

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  • Tim Mc Hugh

    I found a fascinating book dated 1965 on the origins of historic and present day , to that year, fads. Frisbee, Skateboarding,(Jan & Dean era)AND the Confederate flag. It said that the “Craze” of showing The Stars and Bars began about 1957 when the top seeded Collegiate Girls Tennis champion adopted it as her unoffical trademark.

    Funny thing though , she stirred up a firestorm back then because she wasn`t showing the flag the RESPECT it deserved!!

    She had one put on each side of the back of her shorts if you know what I mean. After the national outcry she went with one on the side of her uniform. I cant remember her name or the exact year but She sure was pretty…. And I always wondered about an accent!!

  • Uptown

    The Confederate Flag recalls slavery; but no one I know, who admires the Confederate Flag, wants slavery back. Most sincerely regret, as I do, that slavery ever happened. I have taken to wearing a Bonnie Blue Flag lapel pin, inconspicuously displayed. It is to remind myself that, if South Carolina were to open fire on Fort Sumter tomorrow, I would volunteer for the Confederate Army in a New York minute, a South Carolina minute being too long to wait.

  • Anonymous

    God bless South Carolina! AmRen style comments are not deleted in Confed. flag bikini story!

    http://goo.gl/FLAg5

  • Dave

    Personally, I am not sure that these statistics mean anything, other than perhaps the areas that pertain to Southerners. The reason I say this is because outside of “Dixie” I seldom see Confederate flags, and the War Between the States is no more relevent to many folks than, say, the War of 1812. I know many of my Canadian friends enjoy reminding me how “they” beat the U.S. in the War of 1812. My thought in response is, “So what?”

    I get the same impression when I talk to non-Southerners about the War Between the States, the constitutional right of the Southern States to secede from the supposed “voluntary” union they themselves had helped to form, and the historical fact that the War was not over the issue of slavery. Not many non-Southerners really care–they just know that they are supposed to be opposed to public display of the Confederate flag because a certain minority of people claim it offends them.

    The article makes the statement, “Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) say they display the Confederate flag in places such as their home or office, on their car or on their clothing; 91% say they do not.”

    My initial thought is, “So what?” I would venture to guess that fewer than one-in-ten people who were asked for their opinions were Southerners. To me, it is like asking me, a Floridian, which symbol causes the greater feeling of pride in me: The University of South California “Trojan” or the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) “Bruin”? Personally, I believe that “if you ain’t a Gator, you just ain’t jack!” My heart is not stirred with pride by the sight of the “Trojan” nor the “Bruin”. So why should non-Southerners whose lives, histories, and traditions do not involve the Confederate flag care about it, or wear clothing that depicts it. I wouldn’t expect to see a Confederate flag T-shirt on a person in Fargo, North Dakota, but I certainly would in Albany, Georgia or Opp, Alabama.

  • Anonymous

    When I see the Stars and Bars, I am reminded that 1/3 of all white male Southerners died in the Civil War. I am reminded that in my great-great grandfather’s family of twelve children, only two little boys survived the war, one of which was my great grandfather. The remaining children either died in service or starved to death. I am reminded that my family farmed our land in 1860,and yet did not own property again for a hundred years. I am reminded that I am a step-child to Uncle Sam; that he has declared war on white Southerners, intent on destroying our culture. I am encouraged that she still flies after 150 years. Some people feel hate when they see that flag. I feel the love of the South.

  • Anonymous

    There were actually several flags of the Confederate States of America, but I bet that when the article refers to the “the Confederate flag,” it actually means the Confederate battle flag.

    >It said that the “Craze” of showing The Stars and Bars

    The Stars and Bars is different from the Battle flag. I bet that most people who get upset by the Battle Flag wouldn’t even recognize the Stars and Bars. They would probably think it was a flag of the 13 colonies.

  • REGVLVS

    Lots of people display Confederate flags around here in NJ, including many people who have no close ties to the south or even to the antebellum USA. It is simply seen as an “exclusive” and symbol in a way the regular US flag isn’t anymore, aside from being overtly “rebellious.

  • Dr. Margie

    “the Confederate flag…elicits more negative reactions from some groups—especially… the highly educated.”

    I have a masters in United States history and a Ph.D in anthropology from American University. I teach at a small private college. I suppose that would classify me as “highly educated.” I have nothing but praise for the Confederate flag. To me, it represents democracy, loyalty, independence and courage; all qualities on which our nation is based. I must be the exception for those who choose to speak for me.

  • Anonymous

    When I attended high school some moons ago, one of my close friends constantly wore a levi-jacket with a confederate flag on the back. Not a single person in a school of about 2,000 students and faculty cared. This was in California, in the late sixties.

  • Anonymous

    2 — Uptown wrote at 8:30 PM on June 1:

    The Confederate Flag recalls slavery; but no one I know, who admires the Confederate Flag, wants slavery back. Most sincerely regret, as I do, that slavery ever happened.

    —————————————-

    Why do you “regret” slavery? Because it was “morally” wrong (as we are told over and again) or because it brought the Africans here in the first place? Now that we are stuck with their descendants, I detest bringing them here in the first place, slavery or no slavery. Funny how no one seems to mention the White slaves (many children) who were treated FAR worse than the blacks ever were.

    The Civil War was never fought over slavery to begin with.

  • FreeMilitiaman

    Yes, I “regret” slavery. I regret that our Dutch and English forebears ever did business with the greatest slave traders in history – Muslims. I regret that the wretched refuse of Africa were ever brought here to infect the Americas. I regret that over 500,000 white men fought to the death, brother against brother, to address the African Contagion. I regret that no one heeded the advice of the great many American statesmen who recommended the re-patriation of the Bantu. I regret that there are beaches, malls, neighborhoods and entire cities that I must avoid entirely for the safety of my white children. Regrets? yeah, I’ve got a few.

  • kgb

    What bothers me the most about slavery was that most if not all of the Abolitionists were white God-fearing Christians who were hell-bent on stopping slavery, even though it was profitable and socially acceptable at the time, for the benefit of soulless and morally indifferent blacks who have absolutely no gratitude to those whites for their sacrifices.

    And I think the blacks are secretly jealous of the antebellum society of the south — it was a society that has never been surpassed by any lesser culture.

  • Uptown

    Alas, the 1861 statements of Jefferson Davis, and Thaddeus Stevens, president and vice president, respectively, of the CSA, were clear that maintaining slavery was central to the Confederate cause. All those traits Dr. Margie attributes to the Confederate flag are certainly true, but one has to finesse the issue of slavery, and its present form, the modern abject failure of black society, first. To say that one sincerely regrets the historical fact of slavery does not mean you have to explain why.

  • Anonymous

    In my lifetime, its gone from an innocent enough symbol to be on the car of the ‘heros’ of a TV show (Dukes of Hazard) and a standard backdrop to southern rock bands, to a hate symbol

    Even more extraordinary the NATIONAL FLAG of England, St. George’s Cross, is looked at the same way.

    For those of you thinking, well let it go, believe me, The American flag, all revolutionary war flags, chrismas trees, and yes, crosses, are ALL next on the list. The left CANNOT have anything associated with western identity remaining.

  • mark

    These statistics tell me one thing. Most people in US are uneducated, brainwashed, ignorant of history or simply stupid.

    The Flag of Confederacy is one of the most beautiful flags there is as it stands as a symbol of fight against the tyranny of government.

    I am from Michigan but, had i lived 150 years ago, i would’ve fought on the side of Confederacy.

  • Anonymous

    7 — REGVLVS at 12:05 AM on June 2

    I was up in Maine a few years ago and saw a huge Confederate Flag painted on the side of a barn just before you drive into Bar Harbor.

  • John Engelman

    Two of my ancestors fought in the Union Army. One was crippled for life.

    Nevertheless, I do like to see the Confederate flag displayed next to the American flag. That is a symbol of national reconciliation. It means, “Yes we had a civil war, but it is over, and we are one country again.”

  • Ross

    About 900,000 Southern men fought for the Confederacy, while about 100,000 Southern men fought for the Union.

    Northern Alabama and eastern Tennesse were strongolds of Southerners loyal to the Union. But almost every Southern state had Union regiments of Southerners loyal to the Union and President Abraham Lincoln.

    What would the reaction in the South be, if a maintstream Civil War movie, from the viewpoint of Southerners who fought for the Union were made?

    Would movie theaters and cineplexes in the South even dare show such a movie?

  • Harumphty Dumpty

    “Young people are more likely than older Americans to say that the war’s main cause was states’ rights — 60% of those younger than age 30 express this view, the highest percentage of any age group.”

    This surprised me, since I thought that slavery, slavery, slavery would be offered to schoolchildren in recent years as the explanation for anything and everything.

    Anyone have an explanation?

  • KonfederateKarl

    To Uptown (posts #2 & #13):

    I cheer your Southern sentiments; however, you’ve made an egregious error in confusing Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens with notorious damn Yankee and despicable Black Republican, Radical Reconstruction-ist, Pennsylvania senator Thaddeus Stevens (may he squirm in the rot of the hell he has wrought).

    Oops, as a forgiving Christian, I need to retract that comment in the parentheses.

    Hopefully, your mention of this clubfooted scoundrel will encourage others to find out about him; a queerly mean-spirited and vengeful anti-Southern abolitionist with a scandalous reputation for having “a taste for dark meat.”

    Likewise, I would recommend those interested to research the Confederate vice president’s initial anti-secession stance as well as his famed “Cornerstone Speech.”

    And to Tim Mc Hugh (post #1):

    I always enjoy hearing from you! You know just how to lighten things up.

  • Anonymous

    Anon. #9: I wore a Confederate flag belt buckle that my father had bought at a Flea Market, to School every day, through my Junior and Senior years, in the late 1980s. This School, in the North, had over 2,500 students. No one ever had anything but positive things to say about the belt buckle.

    That was then. This is now, so many years later, when Whites have been beaten over the head to hate their own heritage and history.

    Granted, I was not born in the South, but I did have a keen interest in History, and this flag was part of American History, just as much as the Gadsden flag, or the “Besty Ross” Thirteen Stars and Stripes “Colonial American flag”.

    Anon. #10: As for the Confederate flag representing Slavery, which flag was flying when Blacks were held as Slaves until 1861? The Stars and Stripes.

    Why was Slavery abolished only in the States in Rebellion to the Union, but ongoing in the Northern States, and Western Territories? To tie up Confederate Troops, that would have to put down the Freed Slave rebellions that were to occur when the Emancipation Proclamation was given.

    If Slavery was the real reason why the Civil War was fought, why did Lincoln wait until 1863 to Emancipate the Slaves? Why, until then, was the War being fought? For Union.

    Slavery became an issue when it appeared that Great Britain and France were going to recognize the Confederacy as a separate Nation, which it then could open Diplomatic Relations and Trade with England and France.

    Once Lincoln made it about Slavery, England, which had outlawed Slavery years earlier, would not entertain the idea of Diplomatic Relations with the Slave-holding Confederacy.