Forty-nine percent of Mississippians want to keep the current state flag, while 41 percent would like to see it retired, according to a survey of voters conducted last month by Chism Strategies.
While 62 percent of white voters said they opposed retiring the flag, a slim majority of white Mississippians under 55 want a new one. According to Chism Strategies, African-Americans showed “strong support” for a new flag.
Ten percent of respondents were undecided.
The survey suggests that public sentiment toward the flag has changed since Mississippians voted on the issue in a nonbinding referendum in 2001. At that time, 64 percent of voters rejected a change to the banner. Voters had two choices: to keep the flag, which was adopted in 1894 and bears the Confederate symbol of 13 white stars on a blue X, or adopt a new one with 20 white stars on a blue square (symbolizing Mississippi’s status as the 20th state accepted into the Union).
In the past two years, a number of prominent Republicans have expressed support for retiring the banner—including U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn.
“As a proud citizen of Mississippi,” Cochran said in a statement released in June 2015, “it is my personal hope that the state government will consider changing the state flag. The recent debate on the symbolism of our flag, which belongs to all of us, presents the people of our state an opportunity to consider a new banner that represents Mississippi. I appreciate the views of my friend and colleague Roger Wicker and agree that we should look for unity and not divisiveness in the symbols of our state.”
Governor Phil Bryant, on the other hand, has said voters decided the issue in 2001 and has declined to push for another vote.
“There is no groundswell for a new state flag at this time,” Chism Strategies noted in a press release about the survey. “Moreover, in this bitter political environment with an energized anti-establishment movement, promoting a referendum on a new state flag would be unwise. Opponents of a new state flag feel much more strongly than do new flag advocates. Moreover, this flag debate would probably get high-jacked by the Far Right as a rallying cry in the culture wars and the final vote would not reflect the merits of a new flag.”
Rick Hynum is editor-in-chief of HottyToddy.com.
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