The protests and counter protests regarding the removal of monuments and statues to leaders of the Confederate States of America have largely died down in the U.S.
However, a recent Economist / YouGov poll revealed that significant divides remain in public opinion about who should be remembered and celebrated with a public statue or memorial.
The survey presented respondents with a list of 16 people for whom they were asked to respond to this question, “Do you believe that each of the following historical figures should or should not have statues or memorials of them in public places?”
Abraham Lincoln (76%), Martin Luther King Jr. (75%) and George Washington (72%) had the highest levels of “should” responses, followed by Rosa Parks (65%), Thomas Jefferson (59%), Susan B. Anthony (57%) and Eleanor Roosevelt (52%).
Of these top seven, only Jefferson and Roosevelt didn’t receive majority support from all three political groups – only 46% of Democrats said there “should” be a statue or memorial for Jefferson and only 46% of Independents said there “should” be one for Roosevelt.
No other historical figures in the list received more than 47% “should” responses overall.
Christopher Columbus was one of several polarizing figures, with 42% saying there “should” be statues of him and 36% that there “should not.”
Similarly, Robert E. Lee received 36% “should” and 35% “should not” responses, while Jefferson Davis received 27% “should” and 31% “should not.”
While Davis received the lowest overall percentage of “should” replies, Lee received more “should” responses than Johnny Cash or Woodrow Wilson (both at 34%), and trailed Ella Fitzgerald (39%) by only three points.
Political polarization is most evident when looking at the responses for Columbus, Lee and Davis by party affiliation.
For Columbus, only 23% of Democrats said there “should” be statues or memorials, compared to 47% of Independents and 69% of Republicans. A majority (57%) of Democrats said there “should not” be such tributes, compared to 30% of Independents and 19% of Republicans.
A majority (64%) of Republicans said there “should” be statues or memorials for Lee, compared to 39% of Independents and 18% of Democrats. Only 16% of Republicans said there “should not” be, compared to 33% of Independents and 57% of Democrats.
For Davis, 43% of Democrat respondents said there “should not” be statues or memorials for him, compared to 29% of Independents and 20% of Republicans. Nearly half (47%) of Republican respondents said there “should” be statues or memorials, compared to 30% of Independents and 15% of Democrats.