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Racial Stratification and the Confederate Flag: Comparing Four Perspectives to Explain Flag Support

Abstract

Recent events have brought attention to Confederate monuments positioned across the USA and polarized debates about their proper placement; however, prior research examining support for Confederate symbols is largely limited to white Americans. This study examines public support for the South Carolina Confederate flag using four perspectives of racial stratification—black/nonblack, combined race-ethnicity, ethnoracial pentagon, and nonwhite/white. Using data from two nationally representative surveys of noninstitutionalized US adults collected in 2000 and 2015 (n = 7638), we identify associations between theories of racial stratification and Confederate flag stances. Multiple model fit indices indicate that the combined race-ethnicity theory of racial stratification best mapped onto public support followed by the ethnoracial pentagon and black/nonblack perspectives. The nonwhite/white model exhibited the poorest fit. Findings from logistic regressions showed that whites had significantly higher odds of supporting the Confederate flag compared to blacks and Latinos. Additionally, blacks had lower odds of flag support than Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and multiracial respondents. We argue that an overlooked aspect of Confederate monuments is their signified antiblackness demonstrated in this study by greater support for the flag among all nonblack racial-ethnic groups. Findings imply that prioritizing whites’ views in discussions of Confederate monuments offers an inadequate depiction of public opinion by race-ethnicity. Disaggregating views via the combined race-ethnicity measure highlights racial-ethnic variation in support of the South Carolina Confederate flag.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. In additional analyses, we found that estimating Models 2 and 3 using only respondents surveyed in 2015 uncovers significantly higher odds of support for the Confederate flag for Asian Americans compared to white Americans. We urge caution in extrapolating from this finding too broadly given the small cell size, but view it as important for future research investigating support for Confederate monuments.

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Acknowledgements

An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The Pew Research Center bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.

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Correspondence to Ryan D. Talbert.

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Talbert, R.D., Patterson, E.J. Racial Stratification and the Confederate Flag: Comparing Four Perspectives to Explain Flag Support. Race Soc Probl 12, 233–245 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-020-09288-y

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Keywords

  • Confederate flag
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Stratification
  • Attitudes
  • Racial inequality