NEW YORK – A majority of Americans think Confederate monuments should be preserved in public spaces, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, a view that is at odds with efforts in many cities to remove them.
The Aug. 18-21 poll found that 54 percent of adults said Confederate monuments “should remain in all public spaces” while 27 percent said they “should be removed from all public spaces.” Another 19 percent said they “don’t know.”
Responses to the poll were sharply split along racial and party lines, however, with whites and Republicans largely supportive of preservation. Democrats and minorities were more likely to support removal.
Cities across the United States are debating what to do with hundreds of statues, plaques and other monuments to the slave-holding Confederacy. Some monuments already have been removed this year in cities like New Orleans and Baltimore.
The poll also found that the public was almost evenly divided over the deadly “Unite the Right” rally that was called to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The rally was organized by white nationalists and drew members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, as well as left-leaning counterprotesters. It quickly erupted into violence, and a 32-year-old woman was killed after a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters. The man who police say was driving the car was described by a former teacher as having been “infatuated” with Nazi ideology. There were people among both camps who came carrying sticks and shields.
President Donald Trump later blamed “both sides” for the conflict. “You had a group on one side that was bad,” he said. “And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”
His comments were met with a chorus of rebukes across the political spectrum, including Republican Party bosses and business leaders. Trump later disbanded two presidential business advisory groups after a growing number of CEO members quit to protest his comments, and all 17 members of Trump’s arts and humanities committee also resigned.
Yet, according to the poll, 31 percent of Americans described the rally as “an even mix” of rioting and intimidation by white supremacists and left-wing counterprotesters, a viewpoint that roughly lines up with Trump’s comments. Another 28 percent saw the white supremacists as the aggressors and 10 percent mostly blamed the left-wing counterprotesters. The remaining 32 percent said “other” or “don’t know.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States, gathering responses from 2,149 people, including 874 Democrats and 763 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points for the entire group and 4 percentage points for the Democrats and Republicans.