Southern black residents are more likely to be religious than white residents, according to the latest Winthrop University Poll given in 11 Southern states, but are less likely to believe that America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.
Three-fourths of black respondents surveyed said religion is important in their lives. Yet fewer blacks than whites agreed on what kind of religious principles the United States was founded. Poll Director Scott Huffmon suggested several possible interpretations, “African Americans, who tend to be more devout in their Christianity, may not connect their religious beliefs to their historical beliefs, or they may see the United States as founded on slavery, which is inherently un-Christian. This finding warrants more research.”
The latest Winthrop Poll asked 850 Southern residents about their attitudes toward race, religion, Confederate monuments and the economy, among other issues. The Southern state residents contacted in late October or early November were from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The poll’s margin of error is calculated at 3.4 percent.
Overwhelmingly, Winthrop Poll respondents of all races across the South said all races should be treated equally, and that America should protect and preserve its multi-cultural heritage.
Yet both whites and blacks felt uneasy regarding their relative safety and position in the country. When asked if white people were under attack, 46 percent of whites agreed or strongly agreed. And more than three-fourths of black respondents said racial minorities are currently under attack in the United States.
When asked if America must protect and preserve its “White European” heritage, 30 percent of all respondents agreed, while more than half disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Interracial marriage seems to have grown in acceptance across the region. Half of the respondents strongly disagreed that marriage should only be allowed between people of the same race. Southerners also were united in saying that people of different races should be free to live wherever they choose.
Respondents seem frustrated that “political correctness” threatens the liberty of Americans to speak their minds. Around two-thirds of residents said they agreed or strongly agreed.
The Winthrop Poll asked residents what should be done with statues commemorating Confederate War “heroes,” or memorials to Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
43 percent of Southerners said to leave the memorials to those who died in the Civil War just as they are, while 25 percent supported adding a plaque for context and historical interpretation, while another quarter voiced support for moving them to a museum. Half of black respondents said the statues should be moved to a museum.
Southern residents were less supportive of statues honoring particular Confederate individuals. 40 percent said to leave them where they are, 24 percent said add a plaque and 27 percent said to move them to a museum. Nearly half of blacks said to move them to a museum, while a fourth said to remove them completely.
When poll respondents hear someone referred to as Southern, almost three quarters imagine that person to be close to their family. More than half think of the hypothetical “Southerner” as religious, though whites were more likely to say that than blacks. Whites also do not think of Southerners as racists — only 15 percent said yes. Roughly a quarter of black respondents said they think of Southerners as racists.
ECONOMY AND OPPORTUNITY
More than 60 percent of Winthrop Poll respondents in the South said they believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Yet more than two-thirds also said they believe the country’s economy is very good or fairly good.
More than half (54 percent) think the economic conditions in the country as a whole are moving in a positive direction, though 63 percent of blacks said they were getting worse. 57 percent of all respondents described their own financial situation as good or excellent.
Southerners said the most important problem facing our country is racism, followed by politicians/government, President Donald Trump, and the economy. Black residents were more than twice as likely to list racism as the most important problem, followed closely by Trump.
Black Southerners also think that all people in the United States do not have an equal chance to succeed if they work equally hard: 61 percent of whites said yes, while 65 percent of blacks said no. And 60 percent of blacks strongly agreed that generations of slavery and discrimination make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.
POLITICS AND MOVEMENTS
Winthrop Poll respondents also were asked about political parties, movements and symbols as judged by a “feeling thermometer” where ratings closer to 100 mean you feel positive and warm whereas ratings closer to 0 mean you feel negative and cold toward groups or persons. Those responses below a 50 rating were regarded as unfavorable, 50 as neutral and above 50 were regarded positive or warmly.
Here are some highlights – mean “Feeling Thermometer” Score:
Republican Party, all respondents, 47.5; white, 52.1; black, 31.6
Democratic Party, all, 46.1; white, 41; black, 63.7
Antifa movement, all, 25.5; white, 21; black, 42
Black Lives Matter, all, 43; white, 35.4; black, 70
White supremacists, all, 7.5; white 6.6; black, 7.9
Confederate flag, all, 42.8; white, 49.9; black, 16.5