A new Elon University survey of 1,400 North Carolina residents finds that a majority—58 percent—say Confederate monuments should remain in public spaces while 42 percent say they should be removed. This represents a seven percentage point shift since November of 2019 when Elon last polled the issue and 35 percent of respondents said Confederate statues should come down. 

Among age groups, 53 percent of residents between ages 18 and 24 say the monuments should be removed; 49 percent between ages 25 and 44 say the monuments should be removed. For ages 45 to 64 and 65-plus, those numbers are 36 percent and 31 percent, respectively.  

Jason Husser, a political science professor and director of the Elon Poll, says that the seven percent shift indicates that the state’s residents are potentially moving in a direction to where the majority of people will want Confederate monuments removed and that it represents generational changes taking place in North Carolina right now. 

“Oftentimes public opinion moves very slowly, particularly on issues like race,” Husser told the INDY. “I don’t know when that tipping point will be when we will move to a majority [in favor of removal] but there are definitely generational differences going on.”

Another question in the survey asked whether the George Floyd killing and other events of 2020 made respondents more or less in favor of removal.

The responses reflect even starker differences in the generational gaps: 50 percent of those ages 18 to 24 say George Floyd’s killing made them more in favor of removing the statues while only 19 percent of 65-plus-aged respondents said the same. (For ages 25 to 44 and 45 to 64, those favorables were 37 percent and 26 percent, respectively.) 

In a question about how taking down the monuments would affect race relations, there was a four percent overall shift in respondents saying removing the monuments would improve race relations from 2019.

“To me, that is a sign that we are increasingly polarized when it comes to monuments, and monuments, in this case, are a proxy for a lot of other discussions about race,” Husser says. “Not that the monuments don’t matter in and of themselves but they are also symbolic about many other tensions society is facing right now.”

In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that more Confederate monuments were removed across the United States in 2020 than during the previous five years combined. In North Carolina, 24 symbols and monuments were renamed or removed from public spaces, the second-most in the nation behind 71 in Virginia. 

See the survey results here.

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