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150 Years Later: Remembering the American Civil War

Large majorities say country has benefitted from remaining unified; various ways of remembering the events considered not appropriate; White people in former Confederacy have different mind on flying the Confederate flag, designating Confederate History M

NEW YORK, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As we approach the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, a dark yet formative period in U.S. history, The Harris Poll asked Americans to think about appropriate ways to remember this time, as well as what they think about the legacy of the conflict.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Some states, particularly those in the South, have announced plans to remember and commemorate national as well as specific local events surrounding the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. When asked, however, a majority of Americans say that a parade with a mock-swearing in of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy (68%), and parades and events to celebrate secession and the Confederacy are not appropriate (58%) ways to remember the Civil War. In addition, majorities say that flying the Confederate flag (61%) or designating a Confederate History Month (53%) are also not appropriate. Americans who live in states which were neither formed nor recognized during the Civil War are most critical of these ideas (between 59% and 74% say each is not appropriate), yet adults who live in states which were part of the Confederacy are opposed to them as well (between 51% and 69% say each is not appropriate). However, White adults living in the former Confederacy have a different mind regarding flying the Confederate flag and designating a Confederate History Month--at least half say each is appropriate (51% and 57%, respectively). Most Americans, including those in the South and the former Confederacy (91% for all) say that reading President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is, on the other hand, appropriate.

The Legacy of the War

Although today there are various and even stark regional differences within the United States, over eight in ten Americans (82%) agree that the country has benefitted from remaining unified, with six in ten strongly agreeing (63%). The more education one has the more likely they are to agree, with three quarters of those with a high school diploma or less saying so (74%) compared to 87% who attended some college, 88% who graduated from college and 91% who have a post-graduate education. Further, only about a quarter say that the North would be better off today if the country had split (27%) while 45% say it would be worse off--29% are not at all sure. Opinions on the South's ability to have thrived as an independent nation emphasize the feelings that the U.S. has benefitted from remaining unified--over half of Americans say that if the country had split the South would be worse off today (57%). Notably, White adults in the former Confederacy agree--over half say both the North and South would be worse off today, if the country had split (52% and 51%, respectively).

To this day there are conflicting accounts of the War, which is somewhat underscored by the different names used to refer to it--most say the American Civil War, yet some call it the War between the States and others still refer to the War of Northern Aggression. Given the disparate perspectives, this Harris Poll sought to learn what Americans think each side was fighting for in the 1860s. Seven in ten Americans say that the North was fighting to preserve the Union (69%) while significantly fewer say it was fighting to abolish slavery (31%). There is less of a consensus about what the South was fighting for--54% say the South was fighting for states' rights and 46% say it was to preserve slavery.

So What?

Remembering such a complicated and nuanced period in history is equally important as it is complex. True understanding requires significant education, perspective and sensitivity. It may not be appropriate to celebrate or commemorate each piece of this history, but it is important to be knowledgeable about events and their surrounding circumstances so that learning and growth is possible.

                                  TABLE 1A
                 APPROPRIATE WAYS TO REMEMBER THE CIVIL WAR
      "The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is approaching.
    Some states are planning events and demonstrations in remembrance.
        To what extent do you agree that each of the following is an
            appropriate way to remember the American Civil War?"
    Base: All adults
                                                                  Not
                                              Appropriate     appropriate
                                                    %              %
    A parade with a mock-swearing in of
     Jefferson Davis as President of the
     Confederacy                                        32              68
    Flying the Confederate flag                         39              61
    Reading President Lincoln's Gettysburg
     Address                                            91               9
    Designating a "Confederate History
     Month"                                             47              53
    Parades and events to celebrate
     secession and the Confederacy                      42              58

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                          TABLE 1B
                         APPROPRIATE WAYS TO REMEMBER THE CIVIL WAR
                     "The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is
                      approaching.  Some states are planning events and
                    demonstrations in remembrance.  To what extent do you
                     agree that each of the following is an appropriate
                          way to remember the American Civil War?"
                            Summary of those saying "appropriate"
    Base: All adults
                      TOTAL                Region
                              East   Midwest  South   West
                         %      %       %        %      %
    A parade with a
     mock-swearing
     in of Jefferson
     Davis as
     President of
     the Confederacy      32     36       38      31     25
    Flying the
     Confederate
     flag                 39     44       36      43     32
    Reading
     President
     Lincoln's
     Gettysburg
     Address              91     90       92      91     91
    Designating a
     "Confederate
     History Month"       47     52       44      49     43
    Parades and
     events to
     celebrate
     secession and
     the Confederacy      42     45       44      43     35


                           Civil War Affiliation           White
                                                       Confederates
                                               Non-
                      Union    Confederacy    state
                         %          %           %            %
    A parade with a
     mock-swearing
     in of Jefferson
     Davis as
     President of
     the Confederacy      35            31        26             35
    Flying the
     Confederate
     flag                 39            42        33             51
    Reading
     President
     Lincoln's
     Gettysburg
     Address              92            91        87             91
    Designating a
     "Confederate
     History Month"       48            49        41             57
    Parades and
     events to
     celebrate
     secession and
     the Confederacy      43            42        37             45

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                             TABLE 1C
                            APPROPRIATE WAYS TO REMEMBER THE CIVIL WAR
                       "The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is
                        approaching.  Some states are planning events and
                      demonstrations in remembrance.  To what extent do you
                        agree that each of the following is an appropriate
                             way to remember the American Civil War?"
                            Summary of those saying "not appropriate"
    Base: All adults
                               TOTAL Civil War Affiliation       White
                                                             Confederates
                               Union Confederacy Non-state
                                  %   %    %              %        %
    A parade with a mock-
     swearing in of Jefferson
     Davis as President of the
     Confederacy                   68  65      69           74          65
    Flying the Confederate
     flag                          61  61      58           67          49
    Reading President
     Lincoln's Gettysburg
     Address                        9   8       9           13           9
    Designating a "Confederate
     History Month"                53  52      51           59          43
    Parades and events to
     celebrate secession and
     the Confederacy               58  57      58           63          55

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                    TABLE 2
      AGREEMENT ON WHETHER THE U.S. HAS BENEFITTED FROM REMAINING UNIFIED
       "To what extent do you agree that the United States has benefitted
                            from remaining unified?"
    Base: All adults
                           TOTAL            Education               White
                                                                Confederates
                                  H.S.
                                    or    Some    College Post
                                  less  college    grad   grad
                             %      %      %        %       %        %
    Agree (NET)                82    74      87        88    91          81
         Strongly agree        63    54      66        70    78          59
         Somewhat agree        19    20      21        18    12          22
    Disagree (NET)              7     8       6         8     7           8
         Somewhat disagree      4     4       3         5     2           5
         Strongly disagree      3     3       3         3     6           3
    Not at all sure            11    18       8         4     2          11

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                    TABLE 3A
            IF THE COUNTRY HAD SPLIT WOULD THE REGIONS BE BETTER OFF
       "To what extent do you believe that each region would be better off
                        today if the country had split?"
    Base: All adults
              Better   Much  Somewhat  Worse             Much  Not at
                off  better    better    off  Somewhat  worse    all
              (NET)    off      off    (NET)  worse off   off    sure
                %       %        %       %        %       %       %
    The North     27      12        15     45        17     27      29
    The South     17       9         8     57        15     42      26

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                  TABLE 3B
          IF THE COUNTRY HAD SPLIT WOULD THE REGIONS BE BETTER OFF
    "To what extent do you believe that each region would be better off
                      today if the country had split?"
                     Summary of those saying "worse off"
    Base: All adults
                                               White
                              Total        Confederates
                                %               %
    The North                       45                 52
    The South                       57                 51

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                   TABLE 4
                       WHAT WAS THE NORTH FIGHTING FOR
    "Do you think that in the Civil War the North was mainly fighting to
                 abolish slavery or to preserve the Union?"
    Base: All adults
                                                   White
                                       Total    Confederates
                                         %           %
    Mainly fighting to abolish
     slavery                               31             29
    Mainly fighting to preserve the
     Union                                 69             71

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

                                   TABLE 5
                       WHAT WAS THE SOUTH FIGHTING FOR
    "Do you think that in the Civil War the South was mainly fighting to
                  preserve slavery or for states' rights?"
    Base: All adults
                                                   White
                                       Total    Confederates
                                         %           %
    Mainly fighting to preserve
     slavery                               46             33
    Mainly fighting for states'
     rights                                54             67

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J39369

Q830, 835, 840, 845, 850

The Harris Poll® #42, March 29, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Senior Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
[email protected]

SOURCE Harris Interactive

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