AJC file/Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: HANDOUT
Photo: HANDOUT

The Jolt: The Confederate battle flag takes a hit among white Southerners

Half of all residents in 11 Southern states maintain that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation, according to a Winthrop University poll on regional attitudes that was released this morning.

The Christian nation belief was particularly strong, as one might expect, among white evangelicals polled. Seventy-six percent of them agree, strongly or otherwise, with the sentiment.

Says Winthrop poll director Scott Huffmon:

“Research has shown that increases in Christian nationalist beliefs lead to more exclusionary views on immigration and more negative views of multi-culturalism in America, those who hold these views care more about whether they have a strong leader who will protect their religious and cultural values than whether a leader is individually pious.”

In other words, the attitude helps explain the hardcore support among Southern white evangelicals for President Donald Trump. But that’s not the most surprising aspect of this survey.

The Winthrop poll is based on responses from 969 adults in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. MOE is approximately +/- 3.15 percentage points.

The poll by the Rock Hill, S.C., institution isn’t based on likely or even registered voters. If you were breathing and picked up the phone, you pretty much qualified. That doesn’t disqualify the findings – but it does mean they are more culturally significant than political.

The survey posed quite a few questions about Confederate monuments – whether and where they should be displayed. You can find that info here.

But what interested us most were two questions asked about the Confederate battle flag – a version of which dominated the Georgia state flag until 2001.

One poll query was a softball that suggested a socially acceptable response to Confederate enthusiasts: “Do you think the Confederate flag is more a symbol of racial conflict or of Southern pride? As you might expect, 55 percent of white respondents picked “pride.” Sixty-four percent of African-Americans disagreed.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The poll also asked respondents, straight up, whether their view of the Confederate battle flag is favorable or unfavorable. Black adults surveyed were consistent, and more. Seventy-three percent took a dim view of the banner.

But curiously, among white respondents, support for the Confederate battle flag took a hit. Fifty-five percent may have said the banner was about Southern pride, but only 44 percent were willing to give it their personal endorsement. Thirty-eight percent of white adults viewed the flag unfavorably, and 19 percent said they didn’t know, weren’t sure, or refused to answer.

There are two ways to read this: A) A majority of white Southerners know how they want the flag to be seen, but a significant number are bothered by how it has been used in opposition to the civil rights movement over the past seven decades; or B) A majority of white Southerners like what the flag symbolizes – but a significant number would prefer to keep their support on the QT.

We’re hoping for Option A.

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Secretary of State-elect Brad Raffensperger has named his campaign manager, Jordan Fuchs, as deputy secretary of state. Fuchs is currently vice president of Landmark Communications, and previously worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

***

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue cleared the way for another $5 billion to be paid out to farmers hit hard by President Donald Trump’s recent trade wars on Monday.

Most of the federal money will go to soybean farmers, who have been decimated by Chinese retaliatory tariffs, but cotton growers and other commodities such as corn and wheat will also be eligible. “While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” Perdue said Monday. “This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”
The former Georgia governor’s announcement comes several months after the Trump administration approved an initial $6.3 billion round of trade assistance. Farm groups have warned that the money is not enough to offset the impact of the recent trade battles with China and the European Union, and an environmental group recently released a report showing some previous money flowed to city dwellers rather than rural farmers. ***

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