Poll: Virginians about evenly divided on Confederate statues

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FILE - In this July 31, 2017, file photo, the sun sets behind the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. In a state where Confederate monuments have stood for more than a century and have recently become a flashpoint in the national debate over racial injustice, Virginians remain about evenly divided on whether the statues should stay or go, according to a new poll. The poll conducted this month by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 46% support removal of Confederate statues and 42% oppose removal. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – In a state where Confederate monuments have stood for more than a century and have recently become a flashpoint in the national debate over racial injustice, Virginians remain about evenly divided on whether the statues should stay or go, according to a new poll.

The poll conducted this month by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 46% support removal of Confederate statues and 42% oppose removal. A similar divide emerged over the question of changing the names of schools, streets and military bases named after Confederate leaders, with 44% in support and 43% opposed.

“I just can’t really understand why anyone doesn’t see those monuments for what they actually are,” said Joanne Bach, 59, of South Chesterfield, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Richmond.

“They were put up as a reminder for Blacks to stay in their place … that you live in a white-dominated world,” she said. “And I find them to be intimidating.”

Bach works in customer service in the food industry. She said her great- grandfather fought for the Confederacy and was captured at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg.

“But it doesn’t, in any way, make me feel like I’m a daughter of the Confederacy who thinks, ‘Gee, I wish we’d have won the war,'" she said.

The question of the Confederacy's legacy in Virginia is particularly pointed given that Richmond is the former Confederate capital. Protests in Richmond and other parts of the state this year have at times targeted longstanding Confederate memorials.

City officials have removed most of the statues from Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue. But the most prominent one, a towering tribute to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, still stands pending resolution of a lawsuit. The statue is owned by the state.