A new poll released by Winthrop University in South Carolina shows that many residents in the state changed their minds about whether the Confederate flag should fly on the state capitol grounds after the deadly shooting at a Charleston church in June.
In the poll released on Wednesday, 66 percent of South Carolina residents said the state legislature made the right decision to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds. And 41 percent of South Carolina residents said they approved of the flag flying at the statehouse grounds before this summer, while 49 percent said they disapproved before this summer.
While nearly half of the respondents said they disapproved of the flag before this summer, Winthrop notes that in a November 2014 poll conducted by the university, only a third of South Carolina residents said that the flag should no longer fly at the statehouse grounds.
Dr. Scott Huffmon, who directed the Winthrop poll, said that this discrepancy should likely be attributed to “social desirability.”
“Theoretically a person could say, ‘Look, I disapproved of it, but I didn’t think it should come down,'” he told TPM on Wednesday. “But what I think is happening is a combination of social desirability — people not wanting to admit that they were previously for the flag — and relatedly, the selective memory.”
Huffmon said that “social desirability on controversial topics is fairly common.”
“I think it is more likely to happen when the tide of opinion has sort of officially turned, like happened this summer with the flag,” he said.
He said the polling seems to show more South Carolina residents believe the Confederate flag should have been removed from statehouse grounds, but he said that it’s less clear whether people’s personal opinions about the flag itself have changed.
Huffmon added that because the poll used live callers, people may not have been as comfortable saying that they had previously supported the flag.
He also noted that in the poll, 66 percent of residents said lawmakers made the right decision, but just 61percent of residents said that the flag would no longer fly at the state capitol if it was their personal choice.
The poll also asked whether the Confederate flag is more of a symbol of racial conflict or of southern pride. Forty percent of South Carolina residents said it was more a symbol of racial conflict, and 47 percent said it was more a symbol of southern pride.
The Winthrop University poll surveyed 963 South Carolina residents via live phone calls Sept. 19-27 with a margin of error plus or minus 3.2 percent.