Almost three out of four Americans (73 percent) believe something should be done with controversial Confederate memorials and statues in public places, according to a poll published Wednesday (Sept. 28) by the Public Religion Research Institute and E Pluribus Unum.
However, opinions on solutions differ. Some respondents want to add context to the monuments, such as the history of slavery and racism. Others want them relocated to museums, while many simply want them destroyed.
Political affiliation makes a difference. Nearly 90 percent of Democrats said something should be done with the monuments, compared to 51 percent of Republicans. Independents were somewhere in the middle at 75 percent.
"Race, religion, and political affiliation strongly color the lens through which Americans view our past and its legacy today," stated Robert P. Jones, president and founder of PRRI, an independent research nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.
"Yet, the broad support for honest conversations about our shared history, repairing the damages of historic racism, and reimagining our public spaces to embrace everyone can offer a road map for how and what our communities choose to honor in the future," Jones continued.
Americans are also divided about preserving the Confederacy’s legacy. A slight majority, 51 percent, want Confederate history preserved in some way through public memorials and statues.
Republicans overwhelmingly support, by 85 percent, to preserve that legacy. At the other end of the spectrum, only 26 percent of Democrats shared that view. Less than half of independents support preserving Confederate history through public monuments.
Religion and race also impact views on this issue. White Christians were the biggest supporters of defending Confederate monuments, and Black Americans overwhelmingly held the opposite view.
People who deny the existence of structural racism, the view that racism is embedded in the nation’s laws and institutions, tend also to support preserving Confederate monuments in public spaces and preserving its legacy.
The survey also found broad consensus (90 percent) on supporting efforts to tell the truth about the history of slavery, violence and racial discrimination.
That includes 84 percent of Republicans, despite recent efforts among several GOP-led state legislatures to limit classroom discussion about historic slavery and racial discrimination.
In March, Mississippi enacted a controversial law that limits classroom lessons on race that opponents warn will whitewash America’s history with racism. Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill, "Critical Race Theory: Prohibit," that bans the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), a college-level academic framework to analyze systemic racism but rarely taught in K-12 classrooms.
Mississippi is far from alone. Kentucky Republicans have pushed a similar law. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis spearheaded legislation dubbed the "Stop WOKE Act '' to ban lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and private workplaces is popular among state Republicans but has faced opposition in the courts.
Meanwhile, some educators are directed to avoid classroom discussions about race even though research suggests that those conversations help people to see a broader perspective on issues.
"The impact of the Confederacy extends far beyond its former geographic borders. Still, while Americans experience issues around race differently, there is often more common ground than we realize," says Scott Hutcheson, managing director of E Pluribus Unum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
"Identifying what unites us will help us find solutions to undo the legacy of slavery and racism and move toward building more inclusive and equitable communities," Hutcheson continued.