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Debates about the meaning of Southern symbols such as the Confederate battle emblem are sweeping the nation. These debates typically revolve around the question of whether such symbols represent “heritage or hatred:” racially innocuous Southern pride or White prejudice against Blacks. In order to assess these competing claims, we first examine the historical reintroduction of the Confederate flag in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s; next, we analyze three survey datasets, including one nationally representative dataset and two probability samples of White Georgians and White South Carolinians, in order to build and assess a stronger theoretical account of the racial motivations underlying such symbols than currently exists. While our findings yield strong support for the hypothesis that prejudice against Blacks bolsters White support for Southern symbols, support for the Southern heritage hypothesis is decidedly mixed. Despite widespread denials that Southern symbols reflect racism, racial prejudice is strongly associated with support for such symbols.


The mass killing of nine Black churchgoers by a White gunman in Charleston on June 17, 2015 rekindled a nation-wide debate over the Confederate battle emblem. The tragedy was immediately followed by calls to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds, echoed by Governor Nikki Haley, who had originally opposed removal of the flag. Not everyone supported the removal of the Confederate flag. Representative Jonathon D. Hill called efforts to remove the flag “misguided,” while Mike Ryhal, another member of the South Carolina House, referencing “South Carolina history,” said, “I don’t think it should be removed” (Srivastava 2015). Fairly rapidly, the South Carolina legislature voted overwhelmingly to remove the flag and Governor Haley signed the bill into law. Meanwhile, a number of other states began (or revived) debates on the appropriateness of the Confederate battle emblem: Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of Confederate flag from Alabama’s capitol on June 24, 2015; Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, moved to ban the flag from Virginia license plates on June 23, 2015; and the Supreme Court held that Texas can ban the Confederate flag from license plates, on June 18, 2015 (Fain 2015; Krishnadey 2015). The debate spilled over into the private sector as well—a number of major retailers have moved to ban the sale of Confederate flags and merchandise in their domains, including Amazon and Wal-Mart.

Furthermore, the recent revival of debates over Southern symbols have extended beyond the flag to other symbols of the Confederate States of America. Statues of Southern generals have been vandalized with graffiti reading “Black Lives Matter” (Holley 2015). In July 2015, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to remove a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in a park near downtown Memphis. The school board in one Arkansas town voted to ban the song “Dixie” and eliminate the school mascot “Rebel,” while other schools named for Confederate generals are considering name changes. Names of parks, such as Baltimore’s Robert E. Lee Park, are also under consideration for possible change. These debates have reached even symbols in the United States Capitol, including a statue of Jefferson Davis. Notably, while efforts to remove the Confederate flag are increasingly popular in the wake of the Charleston mass shooting, efforts to remove additional Confederate symbols remain unpopular with majorities of the American public—especially Whites (Agiesta 2015).

Ben Jones, chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, argues in The New York Times that in certain contexts the flag “has been seen as a symbol of non-racist Southern spirit,” celebrating a “legacy” of ancestors “whose valor became legendary in military history,” and claims that opponents of the flag “wish to demonize and marginalize” those “of Confederate ancestry” (Jones 2015). Former Virginia Senator and presidential hopeful Jim Webb adds that while the Confederate flag has been used for racist purposes in the past, “we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South” and thus that we should respect the complicated history of the Civil War (Dann 2015). Opponents claim, in contrast, that the Confederate battle emblem represents both historical and continuing racism in the United States. Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, for example, claims that the Confederate flag is “the symbol of White supremacists” (Coates 2015). Several writers have pointed out that the designer of the Confederate flag stated explicitly that it represented the fight to “maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the White man over the inferior or colored race,” not bravery, independence, or Southern culture (Thompson 1863). Opponents further claim that the frequent appearance of the battle emblem in rallies opposing civil rights makes the post-war meaning of the flag crystal clear (Blake 2015; McKay 2015). Indeed, our analyses reveal that the purportedly non-racial view of the Confederate flag endorsed by its supporters is not shared by a large fraction of Southerners, especially African American Southerners. As such, the Confederate flag is better understood as a polarizing symbol of White Southern heritage than as a non-racial symbol of some shared regional heritage.

In this analysis we adopt a mixed-method approach to address a fundamental question: what is at stake in these debates? In particular, what motivates some Whites to support Southern symbols and others to oppose them? First, we explore the politics of the adoption of the Confederate battle emblem in several contexts in the Deep South. A central theme emerges from these histories: the Confederate battle emblem was reintroduced into Southern politics as an unambiguous symbol of racial hierarchy and opposition to racial equality (Thornton 1996). These histories allow us to build a stronger theoretical account of the racial motivations underlying support for the Confederate emblem.

Second, we utilize survey data to advance the debate over contemporary attitudes about the Confederate flag. We are not the first to interrogate the sources of White support for the Confederate emblem, but our data allow us to test the “heritage” hypothesis more rigorously than has been done previously. That is, while Christopher Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts (2006), Byron Orey (2004), and Beth Reingold and Richard Wike (1998) have all made important contributions, finding compelling evidence of relationships between racial attitudes and support for the Confederate battle emblem, they measure Southern pride as residence in the South due to the limitations of available survey data. But of course it is possible to live in the South without feeling pride in the region’s heritage. Thus previous data do not allow adjudication between the relative influence of racial prejudice and purportedly non-racist pride in the unique heritage of the South. We build on this valuable scholarship, therefore, by simultaneously estimating the independent relationships between pride in southern heritage (measured in a few different ways), prejudice against African Americans (Piston 2010), and support for Confederate symbols. We find that racial prejudice remains the strongest predictor of support for public displays of the Confederate flag, while pride in Southern heritage has at best weak explanatory power.

Third, relying on nationally representative data, we examine the extent to which White warmth toward Southerners is itself racially motivated rather than an alternative explanation of support for Southern symbols. Our results suggest that it is racially prejudiced Whites who are most likely to say they feel warm toward Southerners; and the relationship between prejudice and warmth toward Southerners is strongest among Whites who live in the South.

Put differently, if our argument is that a primary source of support for the Confederate battle emblem is prejudice rather than pride, we should expect to see three key things. First, in the historical analyses, we should see that White support for Confederate symbols will increase when racial tensions are high, perhaps even featuring explicit racial appeals. Second, racial prejudice should predict White support for Confederate symbols even after taking affection for or knowledge of Southern heritage, properly measured, into account. Third, racial prejudice should also be highly correlated with warmth toward Southerners. Our research bears out all three expectations. Importantly, our findings have implications for much more than just attitudes toward a public symbol, as the Confederate flag has been demonstrated to influence vote choice and to activate negative attitudes toward Blacks in general (e.g., Ehrlinger et al., 2011; Hutchings et al., 2010).


The Confederate Battle Emblem as Symbol

Before analyzing contemporary opinion about the flag, we turn to the historical record to assess the intended and constructed meaning of the flag’s display in Southern capitals. The battle over Confederate symbolism can be fairly characterized by two diametrically opposed perspectives. The first is that the Confederacy was fundamentally racist, and thus that honoring the Confederacy is racist. This view holds that notions of the honor of the Confederacy are both historically and morally wrong and deserve to be repudiated, and that Southern resistance to repudiation is indicative of the perseverance of the Southern orthodoxy and a continued disregard for African American opinion (Thornton 1996). The second perspective is that the Southern heritage of bravery and idealism—the fight for liberty—is real, and that demands for the repudiation of Confederate symbols needlessly vilify Southern Whites and Southern identity generally and are concomitant to a demand for a new Southern identity in which apology is the central feature. 1 For proponents of the “heritage” position, denunciation of the Confederacy is concomitant to admission that ancestors of Southerners are “uniquely guilty,” that they are “the Nazis of the American past” (Thornton 1996, p. 234). Each perspective is on display in the current debates over the public display of Confederate symbols—not just the rebel flag, but also of statues and memorials to Confederate soldiers and the like. It is important to note that both sides accuse the other of being willfully ignorant of the relevant historical facts, which nearly dooms any hope for finding a middle ground from the outset.

The most recent Confederate flag controversy has been over the display of the flag itself, but its incorporation into state flag designs in the South has also been controversial. After the Civil War, the Confederate flag was rarely displayed and absent from official state displays until its reappearance in the 1950s, when it was adopted as an element of several redesigned state flags (and also reappeared itself in prominent state-sponsored locations, as until recently in South Carolina). Georgia and South Carolina have had some of the most visible confederate flag controversies. Many claim that the incorporation of the Confederate battle emblem was motivated by racism—most explicitly triggered by the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which barred racial segregation in schools as an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law. 2 Others claim that the move was not racially motivated, but rather represents a more benign official recognition of the state’s heritage and history. In this section, we trace the modern roots of the flag’s symbolic deployment and the ideas behind its inclusion and display.

From Appomattox through the 1930s, the Confederate banner was rarely displayed, appearing mostly at memorial tributes for Confederate veterans (Davis 1998). During this time, it was apparently not widely produced or available, as even Senator Coleman Livingston Blease (D-SC) had to make a general appeal and have one especially made for him by the Daughters of South Carolina in 1930 (Congressional Record 1930). During World War II it again appeared briefly, this time as a symbol of regional pride among servicemen. Throughout this time, the flag remained little used and largely apolitical (Davis 1998; Martinez 2008).

The flag emerged as a potent political symbol in the wake of President Harry Truman’s modest civil rights initiatives in the late 1940s. Many Southern Democrats viewed these measures as an infringement upon their state rights, which ultimately led to the Dixiecrat revolt of 1948. The Dixiecrats enjoyed little electoral success, but they adopted the Confederate battle emblem as their symbol, and their use of the Confederate symbol generated popular interest in the emblem, and forged a strong link between the flag and racism (Davis 1998). Shortly thereafter, the battle flag’s increasing salience was “dismissed as a fad” by some, despite an early 1950s “rage for displaying the Confederate battle flag on neckties, windshields, and wherever else a place may be found” (Atlanta Journal and Constitution 1952). In 1951, Rep. John Rankin (D-MS), perhaps the most outspoken racist and segregationist in Congress at the time, proudly observed that he had “never seen as many Confederate flags in all my life as I have observed floating here in Washington during the last few months.” Rankin himself wore a Confederate flag necktie to help drive home his opposition to “indignities” of “Communist” fair employment and the “beastly” integration of schools, playgrounds, and the military (Congressional Record 1951). 3

The Confederate Emblem in the Georgia State Flag

The flag appeared much more frequently, and gained official recognitions in the South after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board, along with other more concrete forms of resistance, such as approval of a measure to divert state money into private schools in order to avoid integration (see generally Klarman 1994, 2004). The push to change Georgia’s state flag to include the battle emblem began in 1955, when the Association of County Commissioners (ACC) suggested a new state flag design that incorporated the battle emblem. The ACC was a conclave for a number of Georgia’s county commissioners—121 of them, which represented less than one-third of the state’s population, but a majority of the county-unit votes, and as such, was a force in Democratic politics in the state. The flag containing the emblem was designed by the ACC’s attorney, John Sammons Bell, who also happened to be the state chairman of the Democratic party and one of the nation’s staunchest and most outspoken pro-segregationists (Martinez 2008). The ACC adopted and disseminated a series of resolutions suggesting that the Confederate emblem should be adopted because it is “a symbol of loyalty and devotion of a people to [Georgia’s] government,” and is “symbolic of the traditions it represents,” “regardless of what the Federal government or any division thereof says or does” (quoted in Davis 1998, p. 317). The ACC’s resolutions stressed that Brown was “an affront and challenge to the traditions of our people...[and] this Association and its members...pledge to the Governor and all public officials of the State, full support in each and every way or means protect and maintain the segregation of the races in our schools” (quoted in Davis 1998, p. 317). Notably, the ACC’s resolutions never mention any intention of memorializing Confederate soldiers. The terms “tradition” and “heritage” appeared frequently in that publication, but did so primarily in reference to maintenance of segregation and the county-unit system. The ACC resolution did argue the flag’s design represented both Georgia’s role in the original United States and the “Confederacy under which [their] forefathers fought so bravely and valiantly,” but the document’s emphasis was the usefulness of the symbol, “which has meaning for Georgians,” in the South’s new battle against integration, and soon thereafter, reapportionment (Davis 1998). 4

The flag’s popular re-emergence and inclusion in official designs was controversial even among Southern traditionalists: some supported it as a symbol of Southern heritage, others opposed the seeming defiance represented by its re-emergence. Indeed, flying the flag was illegal in Washington, DC, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy supported the ban, contending that the “sacred banner was being trivialized and dishonored” by frivolous displays and opposed inclusion in state flags on the basis that the flag “belongs to no one state of the Confederacy and placing it on our Georgia flag…will cause strife” (quoted in Davis 1998, p. 313). The Georgia Division of the Children of the Confederacy adopted a similar resolution (Atlanta Constitution 1955). In Georgia, there were also many concerns over the cost of replacing flags at all public buildings, and the editors of the Atlanta Constitution (1955) called for a committee to study the matter, rather than endorse the change. 5

There was also recognition of the indignity Black Georgians would suffer in response to the new flag, particularly as state law required it to fly at all schools (including Black schools). The Georgia Federation of Womens’ Clubs resolved that the flag change would be a “backward step toward prejudice and sectionalism.” The editors of the Atlanta Daily World (Atlanta’s Black daily) agreed, noting that Denmark Groover’s “all good Southerners” seemed to leave out “a certain segment of citizens” that would find it difficult to “salute or insist devotion in something that stood for the enslavement of its people and which revives and enlivens [the] cause” of White supremacy. They identified the flag resolution as a “bitter retaliation against…the activation of a real democracy on our home front” (Atlanta Daily World 1956).

The state senate voted on February 1, 1956, to add the Confederate battle emblem to the flag by a vote of 41–3. In that chamber, the bill’s champion was Sen. Jefferson Lee Davis, who spoke of Georgia’s role in the “War Between the States.” The vote in the house was closer: 107 supported the change, 32 opposed, and 66 abstained (Azarian and Fesshazion, 2000). No legislator (so far as Davis could find to report) stated any intention of memorializing or paying tribute to Confederate veterans. Rather, House leader Denmark Groover argued that the new design had “deep meaning in the hearts of all true Southerners” adding that “anything we…can do to preserve the memory of the Confederacy is a step forward” (Davis 1998, p. 325).

Davis argues that an “overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that those who introduced the flag change (and those legislators who voted for it) were not motivated by a desire to offer a memorial to Confederate soldiers, but were influenced by the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings and by the fear that the Court would find Georgia’s county-unit system unconstitutional” (1998, p. 307–8). 6 Indeed, Governor Marvin Griffin, who signed the new flag into law, had campaigned on the promise to maintain “Georgia’s two greatest traditions—segregation and the county-unit system” (quoted in Davis 1998, p. 307), and Groover, who had guided the change through the state Assembly, later admitted that “the Confederate symbol was added mostly out of defiance to federal integration orders” (Firestone 2001).

Even so, when Governor Zell Miller proposed in 1993 to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag because of its racist connotations, the flag’s defenders rallied to the familiar cry “Heritage! not Hate!” Polls revealed that most Georgians viewed a change as unnecessary (Leib 1995), however, these state-wide polls masked racial variations. Three-quarters of Whites reported that they viewed the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, while more than half of Blacks viewed it as a racist symbol (Reingold and Wike, 1998). Still, Miller’s effort to replace the flag failed. Indeed, the Georgia legislature responded to Miller’s call by proposing a bill that would discontinue funding for any municipalities that did not display the state flag on state property, and another that would have made it a crime to deface Confederate monuments, punishable by up to seven years in prison (Martinez 2008).

In 2001, Governor Roy Barnes took up the issue of the flag, again proposing to remove the Confederate emblem and replace it with the state seal (the new design also included each of the states’ previous flags in miniature in a banner beneath the seal). Barnes’ supporters revealed the bill on January 21, 2001, and his allies in the legislature called for a vote the same afternoon. The Confederate emblem’s supporters had no time to respond or to marshal public opinion, allowing Barnes’ proposal to narrowly pass (94–82). The measure was approved by the state Senate on January 30 (34–22). Barnes’ flag design flew over the state capitol from 2001 to 2003. The abrupt adoption of the Barnes’ flag caused a political controversy, and was likely a contributing factor in Barnes’ loss to Sonny Perdue in the ensuing gubernatorial election. Making good on a campaign promise, Perdue proposed a referendum which would allow voters to choose between the Barnes’ flag and the pre-1956 state flag—strategically omitting the choice of the flag which featured the Confederate battle emblem. 7 In the March 2, 2003 referendum, Georgia voters approved the pre-1956 flag over the Barnes flag three-to-one. This flag remains the official flag of Georgia today.

The Confederate Emblem in South Carolina

The Confederate battle emblem was raised over the South Carolina capitol in 1962. 8 White political leaders universally claimed that the flag’s placement was commemorative, and not motivated by racial malice. The state legislature debated removing the emblem in 1993, amidst concerns that the flag was a deterrent to international investment (Leib 1995; Woliver et al., 2001). These debates over the emblem led the legislature to propose a non-binding referendum on the flag in 1994, in which 76% of respondents voted to keep the battle emblem flying (oddly, the referendum was not voted on in an at-large election, but was tied to the Republican party primary (see Webster and Leib, 2001)). In 1996, Governor David Beasley responded to a wave of racially-motivated violence (especially the burning of several Black churches) by calling for the removal of the flag. In a public address, he stated that it was time to “compromise on the Confederate flag, and teach our children that we can live together” (quoted in Webster and Leib, 2001, p. 278). Beasley ultimately proposed a compromise bill that would remove the flag from the capitol dome and move it to a Confederate monument on the capitol grounds. A statewide poll taken in December 1996 found modest support for Beasley’s proposal (52% to 43%). Interest groups coalesced on both sides of the issue: the Council of Conservative Citizens, the League of the South, and the Ku Klux Klan opposed the removal of the battle emblem (it is important to note that the CCC and the League of the South did not welcome the Klan’s involvement), while dozens of groups led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce agitated for its removal (Woliver et al., 2001). After a series of votes on proposals facially similar to Beasley’s (the legislature declined to directly vote on the Governor’s plan), the legislature rejected any plan to remove the battle emblem from the capitol dome.

Gerald Webster and Jonathan Leib (2001) analyze the legislature’s votes on these proposals. They find that partisanship and the racial composition of a legislator’s district strongly influenced vote choice. Republicans were highly supportive of the emblem, as were representatives from overwhelmingly White districts. Representatives from majority Black districts, in contrast, overwhelmingly opposed the measure. Notably, Webster and Leib (2001) also find that many Democrats were absent for these votes, suggesting that many Democrats did not want to officially announce a position on the issue. Further, they find that similar patterns (i.e., support broke along partisan and racial lines) hold for a subsequent vote on (optional) incorporation of the Confederate emblem into state license plates.

After the NAACP called for a tourism boycott of South Carolina for as long as it chose to fly the Confederate flag in 1999, debates began anew about its removal. In 2000, Governor Jim Hodges called for the flag to be removed from the capitol dome. Later that year, the state Senate voted to remove the flag from the dome and place it on a flagpole at the Confederate memorial in front of the capitol building. This proposal gained broad bipartisan support from both Black and White senators. (Webster and Leib, 2001). The state House narrowly passed the measure (63–56) after several amendments aimed to make the flag more prominent, which cost the measure the support of many Democrats and all but three of its Black members (Webster and Leib, 2001).


Together, these narratives of the confederate flag’s official display in Georgia and South Carolina provide support for the racial politics interpretation of its symbolism: up the flagpole in response to attacks on segregation, down the flagpole in response to protests by African Americans or as an attempt at intergroup comity. Tales of battlefield valor did not change during this time, but the institutional, contemporary racial politics of the symbol did.

Stories such as these are not limited to the cases described in detail here. Kevin Thornton (1996) argues that the revival of the Confederate symbols—perhaps especially the battle emblem —in the post-Reconstruction South was a deliberate move by state Democratic party elites to remind the White yeomanry that theirs was a party of the White man, and to unite them behind a party that would restore and preserve their rightful place atop the political hierarchy. Thus the “appearance of a state flag on a Confederate model was a pointed and timely reminder that to be ‘southern’ was to be White” (Thornton 1996, p. 239). Careful study of the public histories surrounding the revival of Confederate symbols in the South led Thornton to conclude that “[w]ithin the context of the civil rights movement and southern defiance, the raising of the battle flag was a deliberate, overt expression of segregationist resentment. To pretend otherwise is to be mistaken at best and dishonest at worst” (1996, p. 236).

These histories clearly point to the essentially racist signification of Confederate symbols in their modern usage. The battle emblem flew over an army dedicated to the preservation of a nation founded on racism; General Lee may well have demonstrated martial virtue and nobility, but even his efforts cannot be disentangled from slavery and virulent racism. Those who support Confederate symbols as anodyne heritage ought to be held to a high burden of argument—acknowledging support for the region’s antebellum racial order as the root cause of the Lost Cause while praising valor or heroism. Given the region’s racial diversity, resurrected symbols of Southern tradition (like the battle flag) should resonate as part of the heritage of more than just the White majority. But historically, flag proponents have typically done the opposite: they adopted a divisive symbol, explicitly linked the banner to White supremacy, and declined the opportunity to imbue the banner with any potentially non-racial significance. Their arguments, explicit or tacit, were well understood by those on both sides of flag adoption debates as racially motivated.


Having argued that the historical reintroduction of Confederate symbols, and their intended meaning by proponents, was unambiguously more closely tied to race than to “heritage,” we now analyze what motivates support for the emblem in contemporary America. We analyze survey data from two probability state samples, one from Georgia and one from South Carolina. But these analyses, like previous scholarship, treat Southern pride and Southern prejudice as distinct alternative explanations. In fact, it is possible that prejudice against Blacks motivates White attachment to the South. In the final empirical section, therefore, we examine this possibility using nationally representative data.

The statewide datasets reveal large racial gaps in support for Confederate symbols: in the Winthrop poll of South Carolinians, for example, 75% of White South Carolinians had a “Somewhat Positive” or “Very Positive” view of the flag, while a majority of African Americans had a “Very Negative” view. Because African Americans tended to express such views of Confederate symbols, we focus our analysis on White respondents, conscious that this racial gap in itself reveals at least the perceptions (if not necessarily the intended significance) of the flag’s display. Wording for questions in all three datasets can be found in Appendix A; all statistical tests are one-tailed and all variables are rescaled to vary between 0 and 1 in order to facilitate interpretation. Descriptive statistics of variables used for analysis of each dataset can be found in Appendix B. Parallel analyses of African American respondents are reported in Appendix C.

2004 Georgia Survey

The Survey Research Laboratory in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, conducted the panel survey before and after the March 2, 2004 referendum described above. The first survey was conducted by telephone using random-digit dialing in the period January 20 through February 29; a follow-up survey of the same respondents was conducted during the period May 24 through June 28. The sampling procedure was stratified to ensure representative sampling of residents in the five-county Atlanta metropolitan area and in the remainder of the state. The interviewing staff included both African American and White interviewers. We analyze responses from 341 Whites who completed both waves.

This survey suits our purposes admirably because it has a number of questions that reflect the distinct sides of the “heritage or hatred” debate. For example, we reason that if some Whites are motivated to support the flag because it represents a unique Southern historical legacy, we might expect to see that knowledge about Southern history, along with feelings of attachment to the South, are greater among White supporters of the Confederate battle emblem than among White opponents. On the other hand, if racial prejudice leads Whites to support the Confederate battle emblem, we should see that anti-Black attitudes are more widely held among White supporters of the Confederate battle emblem than among White opponents. 9

To assess these competing perspectives, we regress support for the Confederate flag on knowledge about Southern history, feelings of attachment to the South, and a number of racial attitude measures: racial resentment (Kalmoe and Piston, 2013), opposition to interracial dating, and denial that Blacks are worse off than Whites when it comes to jobs and education. Control variables include ideology (measured as support for limited government), party identification, and select demographics (sex, age, education, birthplace, urbanicity, and home ownership). We estimate a logistic regression due to the structure of the dependent variable: respondents were coded “1” if they preferred the version of the state flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem, and “0” otherwise.

Knowledge about Southern history was measured through two questions: 1) whether the respondent can correctly identify the famous Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, and 2) the number of Civil War battles the respondent can name (in our analyses, no credit was given for additional battles named after the first two). We reason that this measure captures the latent concept of pride in Southern heritage, in that those with high levels of Southern pride should also exhibit higher levels of knowledge of Southern history than those who have no such pride (after controlling for education). While imperfect, this measure is a significant improvement over previous works that relied upon residence in the South to proxy “heritage” or “pride.”

Feelings of attachment to the South were measured with a question asking how close the respondent felt to Southerners. The racial resentment measure was a battery of three standard questions (e.g., Tesler and Sears, 2010; the additional standard question about whether Blacks are getting less than they deserve was not included). “Old-fashioned” racism was captured by a question asking whether the respondent would object if their child dated someone of a different race. The final independent variable of interest, perceptions of White advantage, was a battery of two questions. The first asked whether the respondent thought that the average Black person was worse off (or better off, or about the same) than the average White person with respect to income, and the second asked the same except with respect to education. Coefficient estimates from the regression are presented in Table 1. 10

Table 1. Predictors of Support for Confederate Flag 2004 Georgia Survey Data

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are logistic regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses). All variables are coded from 0 to 1. White respondents only.

We begin with those variables intended to reflect the “heritage” side of the debate. Contrary to the argument that respect for Southern heritage drives White support for the Confederate flag, we find that those Whites with more knowledge about Civil War history are actually less supportive of the state flag prominently featuring the Confederate battle emblem. White supporters of the Confederate battle emblem are distinguished not by their knowledge of Southern history, but rather their ignorance of it.

Of course, it is possible that one could feel an affiliation for the South without knowing much about the Civil War. We therefore also examine whether those Whites who say they “feel close to Southerners” are more likely to support the Confederate flag. But after holding other factors constant, the results indicate no meaningful relationship between feelings of closeness to Southerners and support for the Confederate battle emblem.

Turning now to the racial prejudice side of the debate, we see a positive and statistically significant relationship between racial resentment and support for the Confederate battle emblem. Since the racial resentment scale is controversial—some have argued it is contaminated with (though not reducible to) non-racial ideology (e.g., Feldman and Huddy, 2005)—it is important to note that the results hold when we drop the two controversial questions from the battery. Furthermore, while opposition to interracial dating is not statistically associated with opinion about the Confederate flag, this changes if racial resentment is not included in the model. Finally, even after controlling for racial resentment and opposition to interracial marriage, denial that Blacks are worse off than Whites when it comes to income and education is positively associated with White support for the Confederate battle emblem. The magnitude of these associations is significant, as a predicted probability plot (control variables set to their means) in Figure 1 indicates. At the low end of the racial resentment scale, the predicted probability of preferring the Confederate battle emblem is 0.34; at the high end, the predicted probability more than doubles to 0.75. Conversely, Figure 1 shows also that individuals at the low end of knowledge of Southern history are predicted to support the Confederate flag at 0.59, while those with the highest knowledge are predicted to support it at only 0.39, net of controls. That is, to the extent that knowledge of Southern Civil War history captures “Southern pride” in the Confederacy, such pride (or heritage) is negatively associated with support for the rebel banner. In sum, among our sample of White Georgians the heritage argument fares poorly—in fact, the coefficient is statistically significant but in the opposite direction as proponents of the heritage argument would suggest—but the racial prejudice argument fares well as racial attitudes are tightly bound up with support for the Confederate battle emblem. 11

Fig. 1. Predictors of Confederate Flag Support 2004 Georgia Survey Data

2014 Winthrop Survey

The Winthrop Poll at Winthrop University (South Carolina) interviewed 852 adult South Carolinians between November 9 and November 16, 2014. The survey was conducted using random digit dialing (RDD), supplemented with wireless phone number sampling. Calls were made on weekday evenings, and on weekends, in order to avoid oversampling non-working populations or systematically excluding groups working second or third shifts. Similarly, wireless sampling helps ensure that there are not geographic or age disparities in the sample. This survey included individuals of multiple races; we analyze only responses of the 581 White respondents.

While the Winthrop survey is more recent than the Georgia survey, it does have a more limited range of measures of Southern pride and racial attitudes. In fact, there is only one question about attachment to the South that asks whether the respondent considers him/herself to be a native Southerner, a converted Southerner, or a non-Southerner. There is also only one question measuring racial attitudes. This question is a slightly modified version of a standard question in the racial resentment battery, asking whether generations of slavery and discrimination make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.

Here too, in order to assess competing explanations, we regress support for the Confederate battle emblem on Southern identity and racial attitudes. We have two separate questions that we use as dependent variables, each of which measures support for the Confederate battle emblem. The first asks whether the respondent feels that the Confederate flag should be flown on the grounds of the South Carolina State House. This was followed up with a branching question asking whether the respondent felt this way strongly or not strongly. The second question asks whether the respondent feels very positive, positive, neutral, negative, or very negative about the Confederate flag. We conduct two separate ordered logistic regressions, one for each of these dependent variables. In addition to the independent variables described above, we include controls for partisanship and demographics: gender, age, education, and income. Coefficient estimates are presented in Table 2. 12

Table 2. Predictors of Support for Confederacy 2014 Winthrop Survey Data

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are ordered logistic regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses); cut points suppressed. The omitted variable for Southern identity is “non-Southerner.” All variables are coded from 0 to 1. White respondents only.

This analysis uncovers more support for the heritage thesis than did the analysis of the Georgia survey data. Both those who identify as “converted Southerners” and those who identify as “native Southerners” are more likely than those who identify as “non-Southerners” to believe that the Confederate flag should fly outside the South Carolina State House and to report that they feel positive toward the flag. That said, the results here support the racial prejudice thesis as well. Those Whites who deny that generations of slavery and discrimination have made it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class are also more likely than their counterparts to claim that the Confederate flag should fly outside the South Carolina State House and to report that they feel positive toward the flag.

Furthermore, the magnitude of this effect is large. Predicted probability plots are shown in Figure 2: all control variables are set to their means. At the low end of the racial resentment scale, the predicted probability of reporting that the respondent strongly feels the flag should be flown is 0.23; at the high end of the racial resentment scale, this probability more than doubles to 0.63. While fewer Whites report feeling “very positive” toward the flag (the modal response is neutral), the pattern here is similar. At the low end of the racial resentment scale, the predicted probability of feeling very positive is 0.07, while at the high end, this probability more than triples to 0.24. As in the case of the Georgia survey, the South Carolina survey indicates that racial attitudes and White attitudes toward the Confederate flag are closely associated.

Fig. 2. Racial Attitudes and Confederate Flag Support 2014 Winthrop Survey Data

2008 ANES Survey

Of course, the foregoing analyses grant Southern nostalgists the benefit of the doubt as to whether the remembrance and recognition of the concept of “Southern heritage,” when embraced by White flag supporters, is analytically separable from racial prejudice or White supremacy. When the pride and prejudice hypotheses are evaluated simultaneously, the data cast considerable doubt on this move. The first thing to note is that although the flag may plausibly be a part of Southern culture, it is definitely not a symbol admired by all southern groups. African American Southerners overwhelmingly disapprove of the flag. This is why we do not include them in our analyses—not because they are not a part of Southern culture, but because this would make the case too easy. Thus the Confederate flag is at best a racially polarizing symbol of White Southern culture, which some Southern Whites claim to be a non-racial symbol. But while not all flag supporters express negative attitudes toward Blacks, the two sentiments do vary together empirically.

We now build on our analyses of surveys of statewide samples that directly examine support for Southern symbols to analyze the relationship between prejudice and its supposedly innocent alternative—pride or attachment to the South. To do so, we turn to the 2008 American National Election Studies time series survey. The response rate of the ANES is high, and the interviews are conducted face-to-face in order to produce high-quality data. Consistent with other ANES studies conducted during years of presidential elections, interviews were conducted in two waves. The pre-election wave was conducted during the two months preceding the November election, and the post-election wave was conducted during the two months following the election.

While the ANES does not have measures of Confederate flag support, it does have a measure of global warmth toward Southerners: a 101–point feeling thermometer (rescaled from 0 to 1). This allows us to examine whether racial attitudes are bound up with Southern symbols beyond the Confederate flag. Furthermore, the nationally representative sample allows us to examine associations between racial attitudes and warmth toward Southerners among those Whites who live both inside and outside the South (defined as residence in one of the states that seceded during the Civil War).

To do so we conduct a series of ordinary least squares regressions, broken out by region of respondent. In all cases the dependent variable is warmth toward Southerners. The independent variable of interest is either racial resentment (the standard four-item battery) or a separate racial attitude measure: a differential between warmth toward Whites and warmth toward Blacks. This approach (Hutchings 2009) allows us to account for respondent tendencies to rate any racial group positively (or negatively). Control variables, consistent with previous analyses, include limited government, partisanship, and demographics: age, gender, education, income, and participation in the labor force. Coefficient estimates are presented in Table 3. 13

Table 3. Racial Prejudice Predicts White Warmth Toward Southerners 2008 ANES Survey

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are ordinary least squares regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses). All variables are coded from 0 to 1. White respondents only.

Among White respondents who live in the South, we see a strong association between racial attitudes and warmth toward Southerners, net of controls. This association is statistically significant in both cases and large in magnitude; movement from the low end to the high end of the White/Black thermometer differential is associated with movement covering 40% of the Southern feeling thermometer, while movement from the low end to the high end of the racial resentment battery is associated with movement covering 16% of the Southern feeling thermometer. For non-Southern Whites, in contrast, the coefficient on racial resentment is statistically significant, while the coefficient on White/Black feeling thermometer is not. In sum, especially among Southerners, racial prejudice is tied up with not only support for the Confederate flag in particular (as we see in the Georgia and South Carolina polls) but also warmth toward the South more generally. While measures of support for specific Confederate symbols in the national sample would have bolstered the specific case above, this finding—that White supremacy and affection for the South itself are twinned, both in the survey data and historically—means that the empirical conclusions from the state-level analyses are conservative; it is also possible that White respondents who express affection for “the South” or southern heritage are subtly (perhaps not so subtly) invoking affection for White supremacy.


Our analysis of three separate survey datasets gives us unique insight into the heritage-versus-hatred debate. The 2004 Georgia survey offers unprecedented leverage on the question of Southern heritage. By explicitly operationalizing Southern heritage and identity, this dataset allows us to simultaneously estimate and directly compare the relative influence of both factors, which no previous study we are aware has been able to do (Cooper and Knotts, 2006; Orey 2004; Reingold and Wike, 1998). We find that White Georgians’ attitudes on the Confederate battle emblem are strongly related to racial resentment, while there is a negative relationship between knowledge of Southern Civil War history—heritage—and support for the emblem. The 2014 South Carolina survey similarly shows that racial resentment is strongly related to support for the Confederate flag. Unlike in Georgia, Southern identity exerts a statistically significant influence on support for the Confederate flag in South Carolina, net of controls. Finally, analysis of the 2008 ANES panel shows that among Whites living in the South, racial attitudes are strongly related to warmth toward Southerners.

These findings have important implications beyond the context of potentially racist symbolism. Orey and colleagues (2011) examine voting on referenda in Mississippi (2001) and Alabama (2004), and in both referenda voters elected to retain racist artifacts in their states’ iconography (the flag in Mississippi; unenforceable constitutional provisions requiring separate schools and a poll tax in Alabama). They find that White support for these measures is highest among Whites in urban areas with large minority populations. They attribute this to racial threat—a finding that runs contra to longstanding predictions that urban contact would erode racial conflict (see also Giles and Hertz, 1994; Karahan and Shughart, 2004; Orey 1998; Reksulak et al., 2007). They summarize: “even in the twenty-first century, racial context still exercises a profound effect on the behavior of Southern Whites” (Orey et al., 2010, p. 553). Joyce Ehrlinger and colleagues (2011) offer a complementary explanation for the continuing racial resentment in the Deep South; in particular, they argue that exposure to the Confederate battle emblem activates negativity toward Blacks because it is associated with racism and prejudice. A clear implication of this finding is that the pervasiveness of Confederate symbolism in the South perpetuates racism by routinely activating anti-Black feelings. Orey and colleagues (2011) seem to agree, arguing that their findings “point to the continuing virulence of racial attitudes and behavior” in the South, and thus that dismissing their findings as relevant only to symbols would be a mistake (p. 553). Ehrlinger and colleagues’ finding that priming with the Confederate flag significantly reduces the willingness of White respondents to vote for Barack Obama offers a clear and concrete example of the potential real-world effects of Southern icons.

Another finding of Orey and colleagues (2010) points to a further reason to take Southern symbols seriously. Orey and colleagues find that Whites who were raised outside the South but migrated to the region were more supportive of the Confederate flag (on average) than native Whites in the Mississippi referendum. This finding supports a claim made by sociologists of the South that many Northerners who choose to move to the South do so because they are attracted to Southern culture, and all of its connotations (e.g., Reed 1993, 1995). Our finding in the 2014 South Carolina survey, that “converted Southerners” are almost as supportive of the Confederate flag as self-identified “native” Southerners, is consonant with this view.


While most of the elite actors involved in flag controversies have noted its explicitly racial signification, to date, the popular conversation about whether support for the flag by the mass White public is essentially a symbolic statement of racial animus or a more benign expression of regional pride has generated much heat but little light. In the midst of ongoing debates over Southern symbols, we have examined both the historical reintroduction of Confederate symbols, and the contemporary “heritage or hatred” debate using three separate survey datasets.

We find that support for the Southern heritage argument is decidedly mixed. First, the historical record indicates that debates over the Confederate flag arise during racial controversies. In particular, elite support for the Confederate flag has become most salient during attacks on racial segregation. Tales of battlefield valor did not change during this time, but the institutional, contemporary racial politics of the symbol did.

Second, our survey data do little to substantiate claims that White support for Confederate symbols stems from Southern pride. For example, while some claim that support for the Confederate flag results from the celebration of a “legacy” of ancestors “whose valor became legendary in military history,” we find in a 2004 survey of White Georgians that knowledge of the Civil War is actually negatively correlated with support for the Confederate battle emblem. Furthermore, the embrace of Southern identity is not associated with support for the Confederate battle emblem among White Georgians in 2004, although in a 2014 survey of White South Carolinians it does appear that those who identify as “converted” or “native” Southerners are more likely to feel positively toward the Confederate flag. In contrast, support for the racial prejudice argument is strong and robust across all three datasets. 14 Among White Georgians in 2004, racial resentment and denial of Black disadvantage is positively associated with support of the Confederate battle emblem. Among White South Carolinians in 2014, racial resentment is positively associated with the belief that the Confederate battle flag should fly on the South Carolina State House grounds, as well as with positive affect toward the flag.

Third, even if pride in Southern heritage were to underpin support for Confederate battle emblems, we note that White pride in Southern heritage may not be racially innocuous. Our analysis of nationally representative survey data in the 2008 American National Election Studies indicates that prejudice against Blacks is positively associated with warmth toward White Southerners—especially among those Whites who live in the South. The idea of the South as simultaneously distinctive and quintessentially American has traction in American culture, especially among Southerners. But what, exactly, is embodied in that distinctiveness, if not racial division and White supremacy?

For C. Vann Woodward, the twentieth century’s pre-eminent historian of the region, the most durable articulation of southern distinctiveness has been what the historian Ulrich B. Phillips called “‘a common resolve indomitably maintained’ that the South ‘shall be and remain a White man’s country.’ [which] had been from the beginning ‘the cardinal test of a Southerner and the central theme of southern history’” (Woodward 2008, p. 11). It was in defense of this racial ordering that Woodward saw the tragedy of the South: that with segregation as with slavery, “the South’s defensive reaction was to identify its whole cause with the one institution that was the most vulnerable” (p. 15). It was this conviction that the racial order was the core of the South that allowed Denmark Groover to declare that “all true southerners” would take a single meaning from the proposed battle flag, even as Atlanta’s Black press vainly noted the perversity of African Americans saluting the banner of an army so dedicated to their forebears’ enslavement. African American views were not counted as part of that heritage, even if their labor was essential to it. And it was this conviction that allowed Rep. Rankin to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives wearing a Confederate flag tie “not for purposes of provocation” but as a reminder of “one of the greatest governments the world has ever known,” and a warning that the “people of the South are not going to stand for” desegregation. In halting the election of a racially moderate Democrat, Rankin maintained, the South would “save America for Americans” (Congressional Record 1951).


We thank, first and foremost, Greg Markus for sharing data and for many helpful comments at an early stage of this project. Scott Huffmon also graciously shared data. An earlier version of this project was presented at the Interdisciplinary Workshop of American Politics; we thank participants, especially Ken Kollman, Yanna Krupnikov, and Rob Mickey, for their suggestions. We are also grateful to those who read and commented on a portion of this project presented in an op-ed in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog: Inger Bergom, Shana Gadarian, Eric McDaniel, Davin Phoenix, John Sides, Nadav Tanners, Keith Veal, and Randy Burnside. Finally, Ted Brader, Vince Hutchings, Adam Seth Levine, and Hanes Walton provided valuable advice.


1.Significantly, the “heritage” perspective tends to conflate Southernness with White Southernness, and support for the Confederate cause with both. In a region with millions of non-White residents and many longstanding and ever-developing subcultures, this is clearly a mistake. Outside this particular analysis, we reject this view in favor of a less monolithic appreciation of Southern cultures (e.g., Hatcher et al., 2012). Even the appellation of “White Southernness” is too simple, as not all Whites supported the Confederacy, today or during the Civil War—and not all Confederates were White. Of course, this broader, complex, reality means that the flag supporters’ case would fail even before we begin, because their definition of Southern culture is far too narrow and is itself steeped in appreciation of a cause that is itself much more closely tied to White supremacy than many other Southern traditions. With this in mind, our results should be interpreted as analytically conservative—our statistical and narrative decisions accept for the moment the somewhat dubious premises: that support for the Confederate banner might be associated with something called “Southern heritage;” that Southern heritage’s basis was forged in the martial activities of the Civil War; and that this heritage is not itself saturated in White supremacy or racial prejudice. Our analysis below demonstrates that even that generous case does not withstand empirical scrutiny.

2.See also Brown v. Board of Education (1955).

3.Since the 1930s, Southern Democrats in Congress (and elsewhere) routinely make a rhetorical connection between efforts at integration, which would subvert the Southern racial order, and nefarious communist plots, which would subvert the nation’s capitalist order. See, for example, Sitkoff (1978).

4.Ironically, the ACC and fellow proponents of the 1956 flag change argued that the previous flag had “no particular significance,” despite the fact that the old version, adopted in 1879 and basically a copy of the official but less-known “Stars and Bars” flag of the Confederacy, specifically commemorated “the Confederate men and women who had given their lives in the American Civil War (Atlanta Constitution 1955). See also Azarian and Fesshazion (2000).

5.See also Pou (1956).

6.Azarian and Fesshazion agree, observing that “no one in 1956, including the flag’s sponsors, claimed that the change was in anticipation of the coming anniversary. Those who subscribe to this argument have adopted it long after the flag had been changed” (2000, p. 22).

7.It should be noted that the pre-1956 (and current) flag, adopted in 1879 “at the request of…a Confederate Veteran” (Atlanta Constitution 1955) is also a Confederate design very close to the official “stars and bars” national flag of the Confederacy but is not well-known as such and thus generally lacks the racial and discriminatory connotations of the St. Andrew’s cross design (see Martinez 2008).

8.This is the prevailing view, though it is not certain that it is correct. Some claim that it was raised on April 11, 1961 (see Webster and Leib, 2001).

9.See Hutchings and Piston (2011) for a discussion of prejudice against Blacks.

10.We analyzed the responses of Black respondents separately, finding that none of the factors theorized to motivate White support for the Confederate flag influence Black attitudes toward the flag. However, the N for Black respondents was very small (60), so we suggest caution in interpreting the results. Table C1 in appendix C presents the full results.

11.These results are consistent with findings from a poll ten years before the one analyzed here; Reingold and Wike (1998) surveyed 826 Georgians in the fall of 1994, asking questions about support for the Confederate emblem, racial attitudes, and Southern identification. They find that racial attitudes are associated much more strongly with support for the Confederate emblem than is Southern identity.

12.We analyzed the responses of Black respondents separately, finding that none of the factors theorized to motivate White support for the Confederate flag influence Black attitudes toward the flag. It is worth noting that Black respondents who identify as Republican are significantly more likely to support the flying of the Confederate flag, and to report positive feelings toward the Confederate flag, than are non-Republican Black respondents. However, given the small sample sizes (n = 124, n = 127), we suggest caution in interpreting the results. Table C2 in appendix C presents the full results.

13.We analyzed the responses of Black respondents separately, finding that Southern Black respondents who feel the most warmly towards Whites relative to Blacks also feel the most warmly towards Southerners, while no such relationship for non-Southern Blacks exists. Further, non-Southern Blacks who score highly on the racial resentment scale are marginally significantly more likely to express warm feelings toward Southerners. Again, though, given the small sample sizes (n = 88–96), we suggest caution in interpreting the results. Table C3 in appendix C presents the full results.

14.These results are consistent with numerous research findings indicating a large impact of prejudice in other domains, such as vote choice and turnout in elections with Black candidates (e.g., Krupnikov and Piston, 2015a; Krupnikov and Piston, 2015b; Krupnikov and Piston, 2016; Krupnikov et al., 2016). This is especially disturbing given that the conditions for prejudice reduction are extremely limited (Lupia et al., 2015).


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Appendix A: Question wording

Georgia Survey

Which of these three Georgia state flags do you most prefer...

  1. the current flag that has three stripes and the state seal (THE “PERDUE FLAG”)

  2. the blue flag adopted in 2001 during the Barnes administration (THE “BARNES FLAG”); or

  3. The flag with the Confederate battle emblem that was the official flag from 1956 to 2001?

Now I’d like to ask you a few questions about the Confederate battle emblem.

Some people feel very strongly about the Confederate battle emblem. Others don’t care much about it one way or the other. How about you: Would you say you feel very strongly about it, you don’t care much, or something in between?

  1. Feel Strongly

  2. Don’t care much

  3. Something in between

Some people say the Confederate battle emblem reminds them of White supremacy and racial conflict. Other people say the Confederate battle emblem is a symbol of Southern heritage and pride. Do you think the battle emblem is more a symbol of racial conflict or of southern pride?

  1. Racial conflict

  2. Southern pride

Do you know the names of any Civil War battles?


  1. NO





Next, here are a few questions about the history of the state of Georgia. Many people don’t know the answers to these questions, so if there are some you don’t know, just say so and we’ll go on. Do you happen to know who William Tecumseh Sherman was?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Can’t recall

In the United States today, do you think the average African American is better off, worse off, or just about as well off as the average White person in terms of income?

  1. Better off

  2. Worse off

  3. Just about as well off

And what about education? Do you think the average African American is better off, worse off, or just about as well off as the average White person?

  1. Better off

  2. Worse off

  3. Just about as well off

Finally, what about in terms of the types of jobs they have? Do you think the average African American is better off, worse off, or just about as well off as the average White person?

  1. Better off

  2. Worse off

  3. Just about as well off

Would you object if a child of yours dated someone of a different race?

  1. Yes

  2. No

Please tell me whether you Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree with each of the following statements.

First: The Irish, Italians, Jews and other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.

  1. Strongly agree

  2. Agree

  3. Disagree

  4. Strongly disagree

Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.

  1. Strongly agree

  2. Agree

  3. Disagree

  4. Strongly disagree

It is really a matter of people not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites.

  1. Strongly agree

  2. Agree

  3. Disagree

  4. Strongly disagree

More good jobs for Blacks mean fewer good jobs for members of other groups.

  1. Strongly agree

  2. Agree

  3. Disagree

  4. Strongly disagree

Some people think that discrimination against Blacks is a big problem in this country, while others think that it is not a big a problem. We would like to know what you think about it.

  1. A lot

  2. Some

  3. None at all

Winthrop Poll

Now I’m going to read you the names of several public figures and groups or symbols. I’d like you to rate your feelings toward each one as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative. If you don’t know the name, please just say so.

... the Confederate Flag

  1. Very positive

  2. Somewhat positive

  3. Neutral

  4. Somewhat negative

  5. Very negative

On a completely different topic, do you feel that generations of slavery and discrimination do or do not make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class?

Do you feel that way Strongly or Somewhat?

  1. Strongly DO make it difficult

  2. Somewhat DO make it difficult

  3. Somewhat do NOT make it difficult

  4. Strongly do NOT make it difficult

From the year 1962 until the year 2000, the Confederate Flag flew above the dome over the South Carolina State House, where the South Carolina Legislature meets. In the year 2000, it was taken down from the dome, but still flies on the State House grounds next to a monument to South Carolina’s Confederate dead. Do you think the Confederate Flag should or should not continue to be flown on the grounds of the South Carolina State House? [Follow up with, “Do you feel that way Strongly or Somewhat?” if appropriate]

  1. Strongly feel it SHOULD continue to fly

  2. Somewhat feel it SHOULD continue to fly

  3. Have no feelings on the subject [VOLUNTEERED]

  4. Somewhat feel it should NOT continue to fly

  5. Strongly feel it should NOT continue to fly

Which of the following best describes your regional identity?

  1. Non-Southern

  2. Converted Southerner

  3. Native Southerner

2008 ANES

I’d like to get your feelings toward some of our political leaders and other people who are in the news these days. I’ll read the name of a person and I’d like you to rate that person using something we call the feeling thermometer. Ratings between 50 degrees and 100 degrees mean that you feel favorable and warm toward the person. Ratings between 0 degrees and 50 degrees mean that you don’t feel favorable toward the person and that you don’t care too much for that person. You would rate the person at the 50 degree mark if you don’t feel particularly warm or cold toward the person. If we come to a person whose name you don’t recognize, you don’t need to rate that person. Just tell me and we’ll move on to the next one.


What about your opinion – are you FOR or AGAINST preferential hiring and promotion of Blacks? Do you favor preference in hiring and promotion STRONGLY or NOT STRONGLY?/Do you oppose preference in hiring and promotion STRONGLY or NOT STRONGLY? (ANES: V085157, V085157a, V085157b, “affirmative action”)

Where would you place YOURSELF on this scale, or haven’t you thought much about this? 1. Govt should help Blacks 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Blacks should help themselves (ANES: V083137, “aid to Blacks”)

How do you feel? Should the government in Washington see to it that Black people get fair treatment in jobs OR is this not the federal government’s business? (ANES: V085079a, branched from V085079, “fair jobs”)

[lazy/intelligent] Where would you rate WHITES on this scale? Where would you rate BLACKS on this scale? (ANES: 083208b, V083207b, V083207a, V083208a “negative stereotypes”)

How often have you felt sympathy for Blacks? VERY often, FAIRLY often, NOT TOO often, or NEVER? (ANES: V085115, “denial of sympathy”)

Racial Resentment:

Index created from four questions: Do you [AGREE STRONGLY, AGREE SOMEWHAT, NEITHER AGREE NOR DISAGREE, DISAGREE SOMEWHAT, or DISAGREE STRONGLY / DISAGREE STRONGLY, DISAGREE SOMEWHAT, NEITHER AGREE NOR DISAGREE, AGREE SOMEWHAT, or AGREE STRONGLY] with this statement? (1) Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors; (2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class; (3) Over the past few years, Blacks have gotten less than they deserve; (4) It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites. (ANES: V085143, V085144, V085145, V085146, “racial resentment”).

Coded: averaged, and scaled 0 to 1, where 1 is the highest level of racial resentment.

Appendix B: Descriptive Statistics

2004 Georgia Survey

2014 Winthrop Survey

2008 ANES

Appendix C: Analyses of Black Respondents

Table C1. Predictors of Support for Confederate Flag 2004 Georgia survey data

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are logistic regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses). All variables are coded from 0 to 1. Black respondents only.

[Note the very small sample size. Note also that dropping the racial resentment, opposition to interracial dating, and denial of racial disadvantage variables does not materially alter the findings.]

Table C2. Predictors of Support for Confederacy 2014 Winthrop Survey Data

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are ordered logistic regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses); cut points suppressed. The omitted variable for Southern identity is “non-Southerner.” All variables are coded from 0 to 1. Black respondents only.

[Note the small sample size.]

Table C3. Racial Attitudes and Black Warmth Toward Southerners 2008 ANES survey

***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05; cell entries are ordinary least squares regression coefficients (standard errors in parentheses). All variables are coded from 0 to 1. Black respondents only.