Many Americans view Confederate flag as symbol of pride, not racism, poll finds

About half the country views the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of Southern pride, while only one-third of Americans consider it an enduring symbol of racism, according to a new poll of registered voters.

The recent study, conducted by Politico and Morning Consult and reported by Newsweek, asked 2,000 voters where they stood on displaying the flag, which has become even more controversial in the wake of George Floyd's death.

The results of the study found that 44% felt the rebel banner is a symbol of Southern pride. Only 36% called it racist. Twenty percent said they were undecided.

The poll also asked if statues of Confederate leaders should remain standing: 44% said yes, while 32% said no.

A total of 75% of women who identified as Republican were on the side of keeping Confederate statues where they are, more than any other group. That compared with only 24% of Democratic women who felt the same.

Nearly two-thirds of black Americans — or 62% — said the statues should be removed. Another 12% said the statues should remain, while 27% said they couldn’t decide.

The latest controversy

The battle flag, featuring a diagonal blue cross with stars, is widely seen by minority groups as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy in America.

Cities around the country have been forced to topple numerous relics of the Civil War that have been left damaged by protesters.

Last week, a statue of a Confederate general, Williams Carter Wickham, was torn down by protesters in Richmond, Virginia.

Activists are leading the call to rename Army bases and local municipalities currently named after Confederate generals. Likewise, military leaders are efforting to end the display of the Confederate flag in public and work areas on bases, ships, aircraft and submarines.

Brief history of the flag

The Confederate battle flag was designed by Southern secessionist William Porcher Miles in 1860, and it was first flown as the Civil War battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

The battle flag, however, was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy and was never officially used by Confederate veterans groups.

Nevertheless, it has become the most widely recognized symbol of the Confederacy.

The flag was resurrected by the resurgent Ku Klux Klan and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election. Organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans have also adopted the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage.

The flag was popularized in the 1980s hit TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which featured an orange Dodge Charger with the battle flag painted on its roof. The car was aptly named The General Lee.

What else poll reveals

The poll also revealed a wide generational gap, where 49% of Millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 — believed the flag to be racist, compared with only 28% of like-minded Baby Boomers — born between 1946 and 1964.

Of those who believed the Confederate flag to be a source of Southern pride, 58% were Baby Boomers, while only 24% were GenZers, born between 1997 and 2012, Newsweek reported.

The study also looked at voters’ political leanings, with liberals and atheists accounting for 67% of those who most strongly believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, according to Newsweek.

"Exactly three-quarters of those who strongly approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president consider displaying the confederate flag a source of pride, the highest demographic to agree with that statement," Newsweek reported.

The flag in Georgia

On Feb. 13, 1956, the Georgia state flag was changed to incorporate the Confederate battle emblem into the design as a response to the Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation.

In the late 1980s, black state legislators pushed to drop the state flag with the Confederate battle emblem and restore its predecessor, but they failed.

In 1994, James Coleman of Atlanta filed suit against then-Gov. Zell Miller and the state of Georgia over the state flag. Miller had said he wanted the Confederate emblem removed, but lawmakers wouldn't pass such legislation and the matter was dropped.

The Georgia Legislature next approved a new flag in 2001 and again in 2003. Georgia voters approved the current flag design in a March 2004 referendum.