Pundits from all over the country have demanded that Confederate statues come down after the Charlottesville violence that started over a Robert E. Lee statue. But did anyone bother to ask Virginia voters what they thought?
The MassINC Polling Group decided to, and found that 52% of voters view the statues as symbols of southern heritage, rather than symbols of racism or slavery, including 79% of Republicans who responded to the poll. More than 80% of Republican voters said the Confederate statues should remain.
The survey, which contained responses from more than 500 registered Virginia voters, suggests that if the decision was left to individual communities about how to handle Confederate monuments, they might stand instead of being removed or hidden.
The poll revealed a sharp difference in opinion between registered Republicans and Democrats, and an overall split among respondents about the president's stance on who is to blame for the violence at the recent Unite the Right protest.
40% of those surveyed believe white nationalists are responsible for the violence, and 41% agree with Trump's assertion that there is blame on both sides of the conflict. When you break that down by party, things the numbers shift dramatically. 68% of Democrats blame the white nationalists, compared to only 15% of Republicans and 36% of independents. According to this poll, Republicans agree with the president.
Summarizing the data, pollsters determined that it was Trump's handling of the Charlottesville aftermath, not his actual stance on the source issue, that divided people.
“His overall tone, words, and approach turned off many who would otherwise have been inclined to agree with him,” pollsters concluded.
After the protests in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of counter protestor Heather Heyer, Trump was criticized for blaming both sides of the conflict for the violence, and for initially not specifically denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis by name.
"I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it," Trump said at a press conference in Charlottesville last week. "And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent."