ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Half of residents in 11 Southern states either agree or strongly agree that America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation, according to the results in the Winthrop Poll Southern Focus Survey.
This viewpoint, a crux of “Christian Nationalism,” is particularly prevalent among white evangelicals. Those who espouse Christian Nationalist beliefs want the United States to be governed as an explicitly Christian nation (for more explanation of Christian Nationalism, see: Whitehead, Andrew L., Samuel L. Perry, and Joseph O. Baker. 2018. “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Sociology of Religion 79(2):147-171).
In this latest poll, three-fourths of white evangelical respondents agree or strongly agree with this belief on how the nation was founded. According to poll director, Dr. 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.”
More than 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. The poll found that 80% of Republican (or Republican Leaning) Southerners approve of Trump, while only 4% of Democrats do. Trump has a 44% approval rating among all respondents and a 48% disapproval rating. This is slightly higher than his national approval ratings. According to Huffmon, “Trump’s approval is still soaring among his base in the South and his overall approval ratings in the region remain slightly higher than his national numbers.”
Meanwhile, Congress has a 70% disapproval rating.
The Southern respondents contacted for this poll reside in: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The sample size does not allow for breakdowns by individual states.
CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS AND FLAG
As some Southern communities and universities ponder what to do with monuments that celebrate Civil War era figures, the Winthrop Poll asked residents what should be done with the statues that commemorate Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
Forty-two percent of Southerners said to leave those memorials alone, while 28% said to add a plaque for context and historical interpretation. Nearly one-fourth want to move the statutes to a museum. Huffmon notes, “All told, 56% want to do something other than simply leave the monuments and statues as they are, but these folks are very divided on what should be done. A strong plurality advocate leaving them as they are.”
As far as statues honoring leaders and politicians who supported racial segregation, 30% said to leave the statues in public spaces. One-fourth said to add a marker, another fourth said to put them in a museum, while 13% said to remove them. Thirty-seven percent of black respondents said to put them in a museum, while a fourth said to remove them.
According to Huffmon, “Statues to avowed segregationists are more controversial than monuments to the confederate fallen. A much slimmer plurality advocate leaving them as is while nearly as many would like to add a marker for historical context or move them to museums. While only 13% wish to remove them entirely, it is notable that this is more than twice as many people who want Confederate memorials wholly removed.”
Concerning the Confederate flag, 46% of Southern residents view it as somewhat or very unfavorable. Only one in five Southerners view it as very favorable. Breaking down the viewpoints by race, there were 44% of whites who view the flag as favorable or very favorable, while 58% of blacks view it as very unfavorable.
This Winthrop Poll sought to find out what Southerners believe the flag stands for. It is viewed by nearly half of all respondents as a symbol of Southern pride. Yet 64% of black respondents view it as a symbol of racial conflict.
CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR AND RACE RELATIONS
Even though the American Civil War ended in 1865, the causes of the war continue to be debated. A fourth of all respondents said it was caused by slavery; 21% said states’ rights; and half said both were equal causes. Thirty percent of black respondents said slavery was the cause, while 58% said both slavery and states’ rights were the cause.
It only follows that race and race relations continue to be a controversial subject among Americans. Forty percent of all respondents said race relations are poor in this country, and another 38 percent called them only fair. A majority of black residents – 59% – said relations are poor, while 35% of white residents agreed.
A majority of residents, black and white, said race relations are growing worse.
ECONOMY AND OPPORTUNITY
More than half of Southerners said our country is headed in the wrong direction. This was mostly a Democratic viewpoint because 57% Republicans surveyed said the country is moving on the right track. Still, 77% of Southern residents said our country’s economy as a whole is very good or fairly good and a majority said it is getting better.
The most important problem facing our country, according to those surveyed, is immigration, followed by politicians/government, racism, lack of healthcare and the economy.
Southern Republicans and Democrats are polar opposites in whether all people in the United States have an equal chance to succeed if they work equally hard. Nearly three fourths of Republicans agree while three fourths of Democrats did not agree.
Concerning “political correctness,” more than two thirds of residents agree or strongly agree that it threatens our liberty. Political correctness seems to be much more worrisome to Republicans, as nearly half strongly agreed that it was a threat, while only 14% of Democrats strongly agreed. Overall, however, nearly half of Democrats saw political correctness as a threat to liberty at some level while an overwhelming 84% of Republicans responded that they saw it as a threat at some level.
For this latest Winthrop Poll, callers surveyed 969 residents in 11 Southern states by landline and cell phones between Nov. 10-20 and Nov. 26-Dec. 2. See full methodology statement for a note on the odd array of dates. The Southern states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Results which use all respondents have a margin of error of approximately +/- 3.15 at the 95% confidence level. Subgroups have higher margins of error. Margins of error are based on weighted sample size.
POLL FUNDING AND CONTACT INFORMATION
The Winthrop Poll is funded by Winthrop University. For additional information, or to set up an interview with Poll Director Scott Huffmon, please contact Judy Longshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803/323-2404 (office) or 803/984-0586 (cell).
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