A staggering number of Republicans support the Confederate flag, new poll finds

While Democrats views on the flag have soured since 2000, Republicans remain unmoved

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 8, 2015 7:12PM (EDT)

                      (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-894418p1.html'>PhotosbyAndy</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(PhotosbyAndy via Shutterstock)

As the South Carolina House debates removing the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, there is new polling that indicates the divide over the symbol is not merely a North-South divide but really a divide between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans leading the charge in support.

Although Southern Republican lawmakers are gaining plaudits for their delayed calls to remove the Confederate flag from government property in the wake of a gruesome racially-motivated attack on historical African American church, most of the voters in their party are in no rush to remove the flag. According to a new Gallup poll, a majority of Americans still view the Confederate flag as "a symbol of Southern pride" rather than "a symbol of racism" but that figure is mainly comprised of Republican support, with a whopping 78 percent of Republicans viewing the flag as positive symbol.

In contrast, a majority of Democrats view the flag as a symbol of racism. As Gallup notes, "the percentage of Democrats viewing the flag as racist is up from 31% in 1992 and 40% in 2000" and only 27 percent of Democrats believe it's appropriate for state governments should to display the Confederate flag on government property. That figure stands at 67 percent for Republicans, inflating the overall level of support and resulting in a 47 percent to 47 percent divide among all voters.

Republican support for the Confederate flag is longstanding and seemingly unwavering. It's Democratic opinion on the matter that has changed. In 1992, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans said the Confederate flag was more a sign of Southern pride than of racism, and voters from both parties agreed that it was appropriate for Southern states to fly the flag on state capitol buildings.

While Democrats have apparently evolved on the issue the party also seems to be gaining new supporters. Another recent Gallup poll found that more Americans identify with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Confederate Flag Democrats Gallup Polls Republicans