JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -It’s no secret that the state flag is a polarizing topic. But a new Chism Strategies poll shows just how divided Mississippians really are on the issue. The Governor and other leaders have said the people should vote if there’s ever movement to change it.
Let’s look at the shifts. The 2001 ballot referendum vote favored keeping the flag 2-1 with more than 64 percent rejecting the idea of a new flag. A 2017 Chism Strategy poll indicated 49% would keep it and 41% replace it. And this month, a new poll showed a statistical tie.
“There’s always a margin of error with these polls, explained Brannon Miller, Voter Targeting Director for Chism Strategies. “Basically, it’s a coin toss right now. If the vote happened tomorrow, no one knows which way it would go.”
But there are some clear splits, among age,race and political party lines.
“Older voters preferring to keep the flag by a two to one margin," noted Miller. “Whereas, younger voters...52% want to change it.”
The latest poll also shows a majority or African Americans wanting to replace the flag and strong Republican support for keeping it. Millsaps Department of Government and politics chair Dr. Nathan Shrader explained what folks should take from these poll results.
“A poll is a snapshot in time, right?" asked Shrader. “The value of this is to be able to do what this poll’s doing…tracking change over time. And that in and of itself is valuable.”
Shrader notes that it’s unusual to see the high motivation on both sides of this issue. The poll shows that four in five supporters and opponents of the current flag say the matter is “very important” to them.
Jackson State Political Science Professor Dr. D’Andra Orey notes that the timing of the poll should also be considered when thinking about what this may mean.
“One question is, is this based on the current climate?” asked Orey. “Are they responding to being more sympathetic to African-Americans knowing that African-Americans do not support the flag? Or are attitudes changing to where people really want to see the flag come down?”
Orey says many times people choose the undecided category in race-based questions out of fear that their actual response might be interpreted as an expression of racism.