South Carolina

Winthrop Poll: SC weighs race relations after Confederate flag’s removal

A majority of S.C. residents – black and white – continue to think it was the right decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the S.C. State House grounds.

But on some matters concerning race, white and black S.C. residents expressed more disagreement, according to a new Winthrop Poll released Thursday.

While white South Carolinians said the economy is the most important issue facing the United States, blacks said that issue is racism, mentioned more frequently than politicians and government, jobs and unemployment or education.

Asked about issues facing the state, however, black South Carolinians responded differently, with racism ranking only as the third most important issue behind jobs and unemployment and education.

Asked to rate the Black Lives Matter on a scale of zero to 100, whites were disapproving of the movement, giving it a 38 on average. Blacks, however, were favorable toward the movement, giving it a 75 on average.

On race relations in South Carolina, only 15 percent of S.C. African Americans surveyed said they are good, compared to 34 percent of whites. Eighty-two percent of blacks said race relations in the state are only fair or poor, while 61 percent of whites responded the same way.

But asked whether whites or blacks are to blame for the state of race relations in South Carolina, 60 percent of whites and 61 percent of blacks said both races are equally to blame. Seventy percent in the survey also agreed that both races must change to improve race relations in the state.

White and black South Carolinians saw race relations nationally as slightly worse than in the state.

In the field from April 3 through April 24, the poll surveyed 814 S.C. residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

“In the past year or so, we have had multiple events that raised conversations about race in South Carolina," said Winthrop Poll Director Scott Huffmon. "The time seemed right to take an accurate measure of where race relations in South Carolina really stand.”

The April poll showed that 63 percent of S.C. residents – 57 percent of whites and 87 percent of blacks – favor the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds last summer.

In a September poll, S.C. residents responded similarly to the Legislature’s decision to remove the battle flag last summer.

But there is less agreement on what the flag represents.

Seventy-three percent of blacks in this month’s poll said the Confederate flag represents white supremacy and racial conflict, compared to 26 percent of whites who said the same. Fifty-seven percent of whites said the Confederate flag represents southern pride, compared to just 13 percent of blacks.

The flag was removed largely in reaction to the racially-motivated shooting deaths of nine African-American parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last June.

Gov. Nikki Haley's approval rating remains high at 59 percent among South Carolinians, with 63 percent of whites and 51 percent of blacks saying she's doing a good job.

“Support among the mostly Democratic African-American population for a Republican governor may seem surprising, but it is likely that esteem for her rose among black South Carolinians because of the strong stance she took to remove the Confederate battle flag from the S.C. Statehouse grounds last year.” Huffmon said.

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