Virginians divided on removal of Confederate statues, poll finds

Photo by Casey Cole.

Virginians have mixed feelings on the removal of Confederate statues, according to a recent VCU poll.

Responses, gathered from a sample of 788 adults, were split between keeping the statues in place or making some sort of change to them.

The findings were part of the Wilder School’s Winter Public Policy Poll. Forty-nine percent were in favor of keeping the monuments in place, while 46 percent want to change their location or presentation.

Robyn McDougle, director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach in the Wilder School, said the poll will further the policy conversation surrounding the statues. Respondents who favored a change chose their most preferred course of action. Twenty-three percent wanted the statues relocated to museums; thirteen percent wanted to add context to them with signs; while 10 percent favored removal.

“People are very split,” McDougle said. “When we look at should [the statues] go, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.”

The poll revealed there is more to this question than simply should these statues stay or go, McDougle said.

“There is much more work that needs to be done from a policy standpoint,” McDougle said.

Regional and demographic differences show apparent trends. Almost half of residents in the South-Central region, which includes Richmond, supported keeping the monuments in place. Republicans, white participants, those 65 and older and those with a high school education or less were more likely to vote in favor of leaving the statues as they are.

While the state is split on the removal of the statues, most of the respondents responded they were unwilling to pay for any changes to the monuments through an increase in taxes. However, 63 percent of the 10 percent who favor complete removal, expressed a willingness to pay more in taxes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Gov. Ralph Northam said the statues should be relocated to museums. Although the Governor doesn’t have the authority to remove Confederate statues, many are state-owned, which means he may seek out legislation in the state’s upcoming General Assembly session.

Del. Mark H. Levine (D-Fairfax) has introduced HB 1099 that seeks the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol. The bill also asks the General Assembly to recommend a replacement statue.

“The portion of the poll concerning the Confederate statues reaffirmed the abundance of different perspectives and the necessity to drill those down into one concise policy plan,” McDougle said.

Saffeya Ahmed, Contributing Writer

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