NBC/WSJ poll: Actually, we should remove Confederate statues and let athletes kneel at the national anthem

Not only is the country divided on race — now even the pollsters are divided on it. Earlier today, Jazz wrote about the Washington Post/ABC poll that delivered some counterintuitive results on the agenda items of Black Lives Matter and “woke” protesters. Defunding or reducing funding for police? Oppose, 40/55. Remove Confederate statues? Oppose, 43/52. Ditto for renaming military bases, 42/50.

Get ready for the counter to the counterintuitive. In today’s new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, majorities actually support those initiatives, and a narrow plurality believes America is built on systemic racism. Let the polling battles begin …

Amid a moment of national reckoning on racial issues and the mourning of one of the country’s most revered civil rights leaders, new numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll show that American voters have become significantly more aware of racial discrimination and more sympathetic to those protesting to end it, even as the country remains deeply divided over the prevalence of bigotry and its root causes.

The poll finds that voters in America are now more likely to say that people of color experience discrimination, to describe athletes kneeling in protest of racial inequality as appropriate, to view the Black Lives Matter movement as a positive force, and to support the removal of Confederate monuments in public spaces.

But at the same time, voters are deeply pessimistic about the current state of race relations, the country is sharply divided about whether racism is systemic or just perpetrated by “bad apples,” and partisan identity remains an overwhelming predictor of how voters view the experiences of people of color and the current movement for greater racial equality. …

Forty-six percent of voters say that racism is built into American society, including into the country’s policies and institutions, while 44 percent say racism is perpetrated only by individuals who hold racist views.

These positions are reversals from polling conducted two years ago by NBC/WSJ. In September 2018, opposition to removing Confederate statues and monuments was fairly broad, 35/63. The previous month, opposition to anthem protests in the NFL was also a majority, if not quite as broad, at 43/54. Both of these have flipped in the current surge of support for Black Lives Matter. A narrow majority now want all Confederate monuments removed (51/47), while a similar majority now supports protests by athletes during the national anthem.

So what changed? Maybe what hasn’t changed is a more interesting question. The poll shows that nearly the same majority that thinks America is racist today (56/40) said the same thing in 1988 (55/37). All ethnic demos among registered voters have majorities that agree with that view. Whites narrowly agree 51/46, while Hispanics are more emphatic (60/33), and blacks even more so (78/18). At the very least, it’s a fairly broad if depressing consensus.

Just how that racism manifests is more open to debate. Whites have a narrow plurality blaming individual action more than structural racism (42/48 in the reverse) while Hispanics nearly flip that exactly (48/43). By more than 2:1, though, black voters see it as a structural problem with “policies and institutions” (65/28). All are close enough to have a debate, but the difference might mean that the debate produces a lot of talking past each other.

Interestingly, the survey never asks about reparations.  For that, let’s go back to the Washington Post/ABC crosstabs for a look at the demos. The idea still gets 2:1 opposition, 31/63, but Democrats support it 53/38 while independents oppose it 28/67. Majorities in every single age demo opposes it except 18-29YOs, who split 47/48 on the issue. It’s very popular among black Americans, 82/17, somewhat among “nonwhite) at 54/42, but is opposed by Hispanics (42/56) and whites (18/75).

None of that is terribly surprising, but the breakdown for urban and non-urban voters is. Urban voters oppose reparations by a fairly significant majority, 40/55, and it gets even worse as one moves away from the cities. Suburbanites oppose it 26/67, and rural voters 25/70. The more the Black Lives Matter movement demands reparations, the more erosion in support they may get — and the more difficulties Democrats might get in holding onto its suburban gains. (They never ask about defunding the police either, for that matter. Odd, that.)

Finally, on that note, another shift in the NBC/WSJ poll is worth noting. Suddenly, the generic generic congressional ballot shows almost a virtual tie at 47/43 for Democrats. A month ago, Democrats had a 51/40 lead, a drop of seven points in the gap over the past four weeks. That might just be a statistical hiccup, but it’s also worth noting that Donald Trump and Joe Biden have nearly identical personal-approval gaps, and both trail BLM and the NRA:

The unrest might be making voters more open to peaceful protests and removing of statues, but it also might be making them more receptive to Trump’s law-and-order message, too.

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