Survey reveals mixed feelings among Saint Francis students regarding symbols of Southern Confederacy

Charlottesville, Virginia, was the site of one of the largest white supremacist protests in recent history on Aug. 12.  The protest turned violent when white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters.  Two people were killed and more than 30 were injured.

White nationalists and their supporters had gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a nearby state park.

A group of Saint Francis students in a Communications Theory and Research course conducted a survey during the week of Aug. 28 to find out SFU students’ feelings on the events that unfolded in Charlottesville.

The Communications students collected data from 143 SFU students.  Of that total, 40 students described their political viewpoint as liberal (28 percent), 48 identified as moderate (34 percent), and 29 considered themselves conservative (20 percent).  Eighteen percent were not sure of their political viewpoint.

On the question “Do you see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride or more as a symbol of racism,” 59 percent of the students surveyed said they see it more as a symbol of racism. Twenty-eight percent consider the flag more a symbol of Southern pride, and 13 percent were not sure.

On the question “Do you see the statues of Confederate war heroes (e.g., Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson) more as a symbol of Southern pride or more as a symbol racism,” there was less consensus among the students surveyed.  Forty-five percent of the students said they see these statues more as a symbol of Southern pride. Forty-one percent said they see them as a symbol of racism, and 14 percent were not sure.

Among conservative survey respondents, 62 percent said they see these statues more as symbols of Southern pride, compared to only 28 percent of liberal survey respondents who viewed these statues in this manner.

Fifty-five percent of all survey respondents “strongly disapproved” or “somewhat disapproved” of President Trump’s handling of the situation in Charlottesville.