NASCAR to fans: No more Confederate flags at our races, okay?

If we’re going to purge “The Dukes of Hazzard,” we might as well get Confederate flags out of American car culture entirely, I guess.

For once, I think this is more than mindless corporate piggybacking on a social trend. According to a study done last year, NASCAR has a whiter audience than any other major American sport. Yes, really: At 94 percent, it’s even whiter than the NHL’s (slightly) and the PGA’s. Having the rebel flag in the infield won’t help change that.

“As members of the NASCAR industry, we join NASCAR in the desire to make our events among the most fan-friendly, welcoming environments in all of sports and entertainment.

“To do that, we are asking our fans and partners to join us in a renewed effort to create an all-inclusive, even more welcoming atmosphere for all who attend our events. This will include the request to refrain from displaying the Confederate Flag at our facilities and NASCAR events.

“We are committed to providing a welcoming atmosphere free of offensive symbols. This is an opportunity for NASCAR Nation to demonstrate its sense of mutual respect and acceptance for all who attend our events while collectively sharing the tremendous experience of NASCAR racing.”

The flag’s not banned outright but Daytona’s offering fans the Stars and Stripes this weekend in exchange for whatever flag they might happen to bring to the track. Given the scope of the overreaction these past two weeks, I wonder how many will bring Confederate flags anyway out of pure defiance.

Speaking of which, new from CNN:

The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race, and among whites, views are split by education.

Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree. In the South, the racial divide is even broader. While 75% of Southern whites describe the flag as a symbol of pride and 18% call it a symbol of racism, those figures are almost exactly reversed among Southern African-Americans, with just 11% seeing it as a sign of pride and 75% viewing it as a symbol of racism.

Among whites, there’s a sharp divide by education, and those with more formal education are less apt to see the flag as a symbol of pride. Among whites with a college degree, 51% say it’s a symbol of pride, 41% one of racism. Among those whites who do not have a college degree, 73% say it’s a sign of Southern pride, 18% racism.

That’s strikingly different from what YouGov found when they polled people on the flag last week. In that case, just 35 percent said the flag was a symbol of southern pride versus 41 percent who said it was a symbol of racism. Maybe anti-flag fever has cooled off or a backlash has begun in response to the dumber attempts to suppress the image, like in the “Dukes of Hazzard” case. Interestingly, despite the sharp divergence between CNN and YouGov on what the flag symbolizes, opposition to flying the flag on government property is roughly consistent in both polls. YouGov found that 65 percent oppose displaying the flag on government property; CNN has it at 55 percent. Both polls also found wide opposition to renaming streets that are named after famous Confederates, with even blacks splitting 33/63 against in CNN’s survey. (Removing tributes to Confederate soldiers from public places was a closer question, with blacks dividing 49/50 while whites divide 21/75.) The key division on each question, though, is less a matter of white and black than Democratic and Republican. For instance, whites narrowly support removing the rebel flag from government property, 50/47, but Democrats support it enthusiastically at 70/28 while Republicans oppose it strongly at 39/60. Whites also narrowly back private companies who choose not to manufacture or sell Confederate flag items, 49/47, but Democrats support them heavily at 62/36 while Republicans oppose them decisively at 40/56. Even the basic question of whether the flag is more a symbol of southern pride or racism splits sharply on partisan lines. Democrats say it’s racism to the tune of 34/58. Republicans say southern pride, 77/14.

One interesting wrinkle: Blacks overwhelmingly say that the flag is a symbol of racism, at 17/72, but among nonwhite voters generally the split is much narrower at 40/46. Who are the nonwhite voters who overwhelmingly think the flag is more a symbol of southern pride, offsetting the numbers among blacks? There are no crosstabs for Latinos here but I assume they’re the ones.