Poll: More than two-thirds of S.C. Senate supports removing Confederate flag

A Post and Courier poll shows more than two-thirds of the South Carolina Senate supports removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. Support for the move continues to grow in the House as well.

A team of reporters has been polling lawmakers since Monday morning. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, about 72 percent of the Senate’s 45 members had indicated their support for taking the flag down, either through direct comments to reporters or through sponsorship of a bill seeking the flag’s removal.

Across the aisle, 69 House members, or 56 percent of the chamber, have so far indicated support for removing the flag. That compares to nine who have signalled their opposition to the move. The remainder either haven’t decided, won’t say where they stand or have not responded to multiple requests from The Post and Courier to state their position.

Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston, said he was amazed by how many lawmakers went on the record with their stance ahead of the formal debate.

“It’s another sign that the momentum has really shifted on this issue,” he said. “It’s obviously stemming from the tragic events at the church here in Charleston, but typically you don’t see shifts happen that quickly.”

As recently as November 2014, a Winthrop University poll of 852 people found 42 percent of South Carolina residents strongly believed the flag should stay. Only 26 percent strongly believed it should be removed.

But the issue has heated up following last week’s killing of nine people, including a state senator, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, allegedly by a white supremacist who cloaked himself in the Confederate flag.

The flag was placed atop the Statehouse dome in 1962 in what some saw as a show of defiance to integration and the civil rights movement. After mass protests, it was moved to a flagpole next to a Confederate monument along the street in front of the Capitol in 2000 after a compromise was worked out between black lawmakers and the majority Republicans.

A two-thirds majority is needed in both the House and Senate to remove the flag from its current location.

By Wednesday night, just 34 lawmakers have failed to respond to The Post and Courier poll to state their positions on the flag’s future. Some who responded earlier in the day said they would not make their positions known until those killed in the shooting were buried.

“I’ll be releasing a statement after the funerals,” Rep. Neal Collins, R-Easley, tweeted. “I’m keeping my focus on the victims until.”

The Post and Courier plans to continue calling, emailing and tweeting to those who have not responded to the poll in an attempt to pin down their positions.