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150 Years Later, 23% Of Americans, 40% Of Southerners, Side With Confederacy

It was 150 years ago today, at precisely 4:30am, that the Civil War began when guns under the command of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on the Union garrison that still controlled Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. A century and a half later, the cult of the Confederacy still seems to have a hold on some people:

It has been 150 years since the Civil War began with the first shots at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and in some respects views of the Confederacy and the role that slavery played in the events of 1861 still divide the public, according to a new national poll.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners.

When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states’ rights, 52 percent of all Americas said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded.

“The results of that question show that there are still racial, political and geographic divisions over the Civil War that still exists a century and a half later,” CNN Polling Director Holland Keating said.

When broken down by political party, most Democrats said southern states seceded over slavery, independents were split and most Republicans said slavery was not the main reason that Confederate states left the Union.

Republicans were also most likely to say they admired the leaders of the southern states during the Civil War, with eight in 10 Republicans expressing admiration for the leaders in the South, virtually identical to the 79 percent of Republicans who admired the northern leaders during the Civil War.

Pretty sad that some in the Party Of Lincoln seem to admire Jefferson Davis more than the man who served as its first President.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Al says:

    Everyone loves an underdog but only 23% of us love slavery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. James Joyner says:

    It’s a meaningless question, methinks. If you polled on the merits of slavery, you’d get like 99% against. But ask a Southerner whether he supports his people’s side in a war, it’s hardly shocking that a large number will say yes. Especially when they believe the war was over state sovereignty and not slavery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. Derrick says:

    If you polled on the merits of slavery, you’d get like 99% against.

    I guarantee that if they asked “Do you think the South shouldn’t have been forced to give up the institution of slavery?” I guarantee that 99% turns into 85% pretty quickly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. john personna says:

    people are sick

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  5. mantis says:

    But ask a Southerner whether he supports his people’s side in a war

    Sure, if they went to war today, but we’re talking about a war from 150 years ago, over slavery, that they lost. If some of them still want to fight on the losing side of the slavery fight 150 years after losing it, that’s not sticking up for your team, it’s a desire to go back to the old ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. jwest says:

    Doug,

    “ Pretty sad that some in the Party Of Lincoln seem to admire Jefferson Davis more than the man who served as its first President.”

    Are you talking about the 44% of non-whites who admire the leaders of the confederacy?

    I’ll assume that wasn’t the statistic you had in mind when you wrote what you thought was a stinging condemnation of the racist Tea Party. But now that the figure is out there, separated from all the rest so as not to confuse you, do you think there is a chance this push poll doesn’t prove what you think it does?

    (sigh)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Some of the cross-tabs are interesting:

    30% of non-whites and 27% of liberals don’t believe slavery was the main reason for secession. Also, this view appears pretty evenly distributed across the country, not just in the South.

    That suggests to me an overall cynicism about the traditional history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Jwest,

    A few points from the crosstabs of the poll:

    1, 24% of Republicans, 28% of conservatives, and 26% of those who say they support the Tea Party answered that they side with the Confederacy.

    2. 80% of Republicans, 67% of conservatives, and 69% who say they support the Tea Party admire the leaders of the Confederacy either “Some” or “A great deal”. All those numbers are higher than the comparable numbers for the same question about leaders of the Union

    I found both those results profoundly sad

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. mantis says:

    That suggests to me an overall cynicism about the traditional history.

    I’m voting for ignorance over cynicism. The general population’s knowledge of American history is pretty pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. PD Shaw says:

    mantis, 43% of those who attended collage didn’t think slavery wss the main reason.

    (Maybe the problem with the question is there are only two options given: slavery is either the main reason or it’s not. “Not” might include numerous options, such as maybe the election of Lincoln.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. jwest says:

    Doug,

    So following your logic and the conclusion that you’ve come to – which is admiration of the confederate leadership equals support for slavery which equals racist – those 44% of non-whites are racists against themselves.

    That pretty much explains the thought process you use on a number of subjects.

    Just like that ridiculous poll the other day concerning Mississippi republicans and interracial marriage, doesn’t it ever occur to you that some entity with an agenda is pushing a “paint republicans/Tea Party/anyone who doesn’t like Obama as a racist” meme? Do we need to establish a new category past “useful idiot” to include “useful, willing and anxious idiot”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. wr says:

    PD Shaw — And the reason the people in the South hated Lincoln… was because they thought he would end slavery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  13. mantis says:

    mantis, 43% of those who attended collage didn’t think slavery wss the main reason.

    I didn’t say lack of higher education is the cause of our collective ignorance.

    (Maybe the problem with the question is there are only two options given: slavery is either the main reason or it’s not. “Not” might include numerous options, such as maybe the election of Lincoln.)

    There was another option: Mixed.

    What do you think was the MAIN reason why the leaders of the southern states seceded from the U.S.? Do you think they did so mainly because they wanted slavery to remain legal in their states, or do you think that slavery was not the main reason why they seceded from the U.S.?

    Slavery was main reason 54%
    Slavery was not main reason 42%
    Mixed (vol.) 1%
    No opinion 3%

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. PD Shaw says:

    I think (vol.) means that the option wasn’t given in the poll, but recorded when given.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. mantis says:

    So following your logic and the conclusion that you’ve come to – which is admiration of the confederate leadership equals support for slavery which equals racist – those 44% of non-whites are racists against themselves.

    The respondents you reference were “non-white.” Non-white does not equal black. Not all non-whites were slaves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. mantis says:

    I think (vol.) means that the option wasn’t given in the poll, but recorded when given.

    You’re right. I’m a dope. Nevermind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. JKB says:

    Well, the Southern States seceded over slavery, but Lincoln went to war over secession. Then Lincoln used slavery first to quell calls for a negotiated settlement by Northerners with the Emancipation Proclamation and then just to keep the North in the war as it dragged on.

    As for the leaders of the South, I’d say a few people know Jefferson Davis but most when they think of the Southern leaders are thinking of Lee, Jackson, etc., who were great military leaders and deserve admiration for that. Regardless of the underlying politics, those men were loyal to their States, a far more noble sentiment at the time, and took a rag tag army of farmboys against an opponent who had far more potential troops and a heavy industrial base. A quixotic campaign but one that nearly succeeded, in the short term, of taking Washington.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. jwest says:

    Mantis,

    You think there were large numbers of American Indians and Eskimos included in this poll?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. mantis says:

    You think there were large numbers of American Indians and Eskimos included in this poll?

    You think the only people in this country who self-identify as non-white are blacks, American Indians and Eskimos?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. jwest says:

    Mantis,

    “You think the only people in this country who self-identify as non-white are blacks, American Indians and Eskimos?”

    Being a conservative, Tea Party member who has driven through the South, by Doug’s definition I’m a racist, so yes, I see all non-white people as the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. mantis says:

    Being a conservative, Tea Party member who has driven through the South, by Doug’s definition I’m a racist, so yes, I see all non-white people as the same.

    Ok then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    I have no problem with people acknowledging Lee’s generalship, so long as they understand that he is the moral equivalent of Rommel — a very talented general serving an evil cause.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  23. jwest says:

    Michael,

    Do you believe Lee thought he was serving an evil cause at the time?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. wr says:

    jwest — Do you believe Himmler thought he was serving an evil cause at the time? Should we forgive him his crimes because he felt he was saving Germany?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. JKB says:

    Lee was serving Virginia. Otherwise, it would have been a short war with Lee commanding the North as was offered to him prior his taking command of the Army of Virginia.

    and that, of course, is where all the disparity comes from. Many were serving their states as citizens regardless of their personal beliefs in slavery. And, at the start and all through the war, those supporting slavery were on the side of the Constitution and ironically enough, federalism. Lincoln could not free the slaves in states that were under Union control until slavery was abolished in the Constitution; to do so would have been unconstitutional and a government takings.

    So given the small review of the conflicting themes of the war, is there any confusion why so many today would look upon the same event and find so diverse opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. jwest says:

    Wr,

    I don’t know enough about Himmler to know what he believed, but I do know that very few people ever think they are doing something evil, even when it’s hard to see how they couldn’t know.

    Along those same lines, I’m certain you don’t believe you’re doing evil when you advocate and vote for liberal policies, even though the evidence that what you’ve done has harmed every group you claim to help is overwhelming,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  27. Tlaloc says:

    But ask a Southerner whether he supports his people’s side in a war, it’s hardly shocking that a large number will say yes. Especially when they believe the war was over state sovereignty and not slavery.

    What about germans romanticizing their nations role in WW2? Same same?

    I think actually that it illustrates a really disturbing bit of nationalism (a word chosen with some care) to whitewash a war your forefathers engaged in for the most vile of purposes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  28. PD Shaw says:

    I guess my thoughts on the poll are some surprise. I’m not surprised that Southerners or whites or conservatives trend towards favorable views of one sort of another to the Confederacy; I’m surprised by the presence of similar views among other constituents.

    Doug points out that “24% of Republicans, 28% of conservatives, and 26% of those who say they support the Tea Party answered that they side with the Confederacy.” But look at the other numbers:

    20% of non-whites; (+/- 8.0)
    20% of Democrats (+/- 6.0)
    14% of liberals (+/- 7.5)

    Most of these are within the margin of error from each other.

    Good point upthread about the uncertainties surrounding self-identification of race, but would one really expect statistically for there to be no difference between whites and non-whites?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. wr says:

    You nailed it, jwest. Very few people ever think they’re doing evil. Heck, Charles Manson probably didn’t think he was. Which makes your constant defense of slave owners by virtue of this argument completely hollow. They’re the only ones who get your seal of approval.

    As for liberalism, I realize you probably prefer a world where Jim Crow is the law, there’s no minimum wage, the elderly die in the street if they don’t happen to be rich, and poor people have no access to health care, so maybe you think of all these outcomes as evil. Knock yourself out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  30. This is only an issue because the establishment media keeps talking about it! If the media would shut the hell up about it, it would mostly go away! But noooooooo…these establishment elite always like to start racial tensions so the masses can be more easily controlled, as a whole…and the sheeple fall for it EVERY time!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  31. jwest says:

    Celebs4truth,

    You make an excellent point.

    Probably the saddest part of the election of Barack Obama has been the missed opportunity to move to a post-racial society. It actually was part of the implied social contract at the center of his campaign. America agreed to elect an unqualified person the presidency primarily based on his skin color in exchange for absolution for all past racial sins.

    Al though we kept our end of the bargain, some continue to paint large swaths of the populous as racist, tensions seemed to have escalated and some people even continue to pretend Cornell West is intelligent.

    We should have come so much farther by now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  32. mantis says:

    This is only an issue because the establishment media keeps talking about it!

    Actually, many Southern states are in the midst of celebrations of the Confederacy. Are they all just media pawns?

    If the media would shut the hell up about it, it would mostly go away!

    Hear that everyone? Racism and support for the Confederacy are inventions of the media! The South is actually just a computer generated world!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  33. michael reynolds says:

    Probably the saddest part of the election of Barack Obama has been the missed opportunity to move to a post-racial society.

    Yeah, you’re right. Why don’t you let us know when you and the rest of the wingnuttery move in? We’ve been waiting on you since long before the 2008 election. Plenty of room here still.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Terrye says:

    I don’t care what was in some CNN poll, I do not believe that 23% of Americans or 40% of Southerners side with the Confederacy. For one thing, it is a dumb question. I am not sure how many people today really know who the Confederates were, considering the fact that we stopped teaching history. Besides, Lincoln is still revered and respected enough that it is very doubtful that many Americans actually support the goals of the Confederacy. My guess is the response has something to do with states rights or a desire to pay homage to dead ancestors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. An Interested Party says:

    Especially when they believe the war was over state sovereignty and not slavery.

    Yes, ignorance of history and self-delusion unfortunately do play parts in all of this…

    …and that, of course, is where all the disparity comes from. Many were serving their states as citizens regardless of their personal beliefs in slavery.

    No disparity at all…we live in a federal republic, not a confederation of states…some people don’t seem to realize that…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. I am a native Southerner and love the South, where I live now (after having lived over a lot of the world during my Army career). Of my ancestors of the Civil War years, some served in the Union army and some the South’s. Two observations:

    1. To defend the South’s cause is to defend the absolutely indefensible. The South seceded over slavery, period. Read the original secession resolutions, starting with South Carolina’s, the first state to secede. Its resolution discusses nothing but slavery as its cause to secede. The Confederacy fought to preserve slavery, period. All this “states rights” crap is absent from the southern states’ prewar ruminations. It’s a postwar apologist invention. Even the northern-voted tariffs that Southern apologists offer don’t wash, since the South, mainly S.C., wrote the Congressional enactments for the tariffs in the 1850s.

    2. The viciousness with which Lincoln fought the war is also indefensible. I would also say that Lincoln’s whole political ideations of the union of the states is indefensible. It certainly was not based upon the Constitution, which Lincoln himself freely admitted. The more I have studied Lincoln, the less enamored and more horrified of him I become. He was the closest thing to a despotic dictator this country has ever come.

    These, I think, encapsulate the reason this war still grips the popular imagination. Neither cause can be rationally defended and neither should be embraced today. What the survey really shows is that reconciliation has not been accomplished by a long shot, not least because neither North nor South have ever been able to cogently reconstruct what was so important that it was worth taking 600,000 lives and destroying tens of thousands of square miles of American territory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  37. Tlaloc says:

    Probably the saddest part of the election of Barack Obama has been the missed opportunity to move to a post-racial society.

    Chutzpah, that. After two years of the right screaming “KENYAN MARXIST TERRORIST FIST BUMPER LIAR” any time Obama opens his mouth you now regret that the media has not let us move into a post racial world? Maybe you guys might want to stop your official party organization from sending out emails of Obama dressed as a tribal witch doctor before you throw that particular stone.

    Oh and maybe stop humming Rush’s “Barack, the magic negro” song while you’re at it. I’m just sayin…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  38. JKB says:

    No disparity at all…we live in a federal republic, not a confederation of states…some people don’t seem to realize that…

    We live in a federal republic of republics (states). In modern times, we tend to put nationality before state citizenship but the mass movement of citizens is a recent activity. At the time of the Civil War, citizens still held state allegiance in high regard. A fact lost upon our modern Senate is that the senators are elected to represent their state, although that was diluted by the amendment for popular election of senators.

    And until the Civil War, it was generally presumed that a state having voluntarily joined the union could leave the union.

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  39. [...] 150 Years Later, 23% Of Americans, 40% Of Southerners, Side With Confederacy (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  40. JKB says:

    For those desirous of a brief but well rounded round up of this day in history, here is a pretty good post.

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  41. Pug says:

    Agree with Donald Sensing’s first observation, but this one was a head scratcher:

    The viciousness with which Lincoln fought the war is also indefensible.

    Wars tend to be pretty viscious Mr. Sensing and Lincoln was out to end the rebellion. Lincoln, were he a vindictive and viscious man, could easily have ordered Lee, Davis and many others strung up after the war. They were, after all, traitors.

    It’s a shame he didn’t order Nathan Bedford Forrest and a few others shot on sight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  42. fasteddie9318 says:

    Probably the saddest part of the election of Barack Obama has been the missed opportunity to move to a post-racial society. It actually was part of the implied social contract at the center of his campaign. America agreed to elect an unqualified person the presidency primarily based on his skin color in exchange for absolution for all past racial sins.

    Al though we kept our end of the bargain, some continue to paint large swaths of the populous as racist, tensions seemed to have escalated and some people even continue to pretend Cornell West is intelligent.

    This has to be parody. There’s no other rational explanation for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1