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Racial Prejudice, Southern Heritage, and White Support for the Confederate Battle Flag

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2017

Logan Strother
Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri and Department of Political Science, Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Spencer Piston
Department of Political Science, Boston University
Thomas Ogorzalek
Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
E-mail address:


Debates about the meaning of Southern symbols such as the Confederate battle emblem are sweeping the nation. These debates typically revolve around the question of whether such symbols represent “heritage or hatred:” racially innocuous Southern pride or White prejudice against Blacks. In order to assess these competing claims, we first examine the historical reintroduction of the Confederate flag in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s; next, we analyze three survey datasets, including one nationally representative dataset and two probability samples of White Georgians and White South Carolinians, in order to build and assess a stronger theoretical account of the racial motivations underlying such symbols than currently exists. While our findings yield strong support for the hypothesis that prejudice against Blacks bolsters White support for Southern symbols, support for the Southern heritage hypothesis is decidedly mixed. Despite widespread denials that Southern symbols reflect racism, racial prejudice is strongly associated with support for such symbols.

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Copyright © Hutchins Center for African and African American Research 2017 

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