Local Politics

WRAL News poll: NC residents say keep Confederate statues, make sheriffs work with ICE

Posted February 20, 2020 3:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2020 7:19 p.m. EST

— In an age of border walls, immigration sweeps and protests over Confederate monuments, race relations remain a divisive issue as North Carolinians consider the upcoming primary election. Results of a new WRAL News poll bear that out.

Although fewer than half of the 2,760 people surveyed statewide said race relations have changed over the last four years, clear distinctions could be seen between those who say they have improved and those who say they have deteriorated, according to the exclusive poll by SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA conducted the scientific poll between Feb. 13 and Sunday, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Black respondents were more than twice as likely as white respondents to say race relations are worse now than in 2016, 46 percent to 21 percent. Almost half of whites polled said relations are about the same as four years ago, compared with only 32 percent of blacks. Fourteen percent of blacks said relations have improved in recent years, compared with 24 percent of whites.

"I would say worse, but I would also say better in some ways because, I think, people are more educated about race relations now," Durham resident Amy Morgan said.

"I would say they’re probably worse," Durham resident Tiana Horn said, "especially given just like how things are so polarized now. It’s very easy for people to only see their party and their party’s views."

Aside from race, political ideology and personal wealth were key indicators of how North Carolinians feel about race relations in the state.

Democrats were four times as likely as Republicans to say things have gone downhill in recent years, while Republicans were more than twice as likely to say race relations are better now. Similarly, more than a third of respondents who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election said race relations have improved under his administration, while 43 percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton say race relations are now worse.

Only 9 percent of people who classify themselves as poor say race relations are better than four years ago, while 40 percent say they are worse.

"I think it’s getting better, and it’s going to keep getting better, but it’s going to go through some ugly stuff," Durham resident Holly deSaillan said.

Confederate monuments

Race and political ideology also were major indicators regarding the ongoing debate over what to do with Confederate monuments, such as "Silent Sam" at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Nearly two-thirds of blacks polled said the statues should be moved to Civil War cemeteries or battlegrounds or removed from public display altogether, while only 12 percent said the statues should be left alone. Another 14 percent said they should remain where they are as long as plaques or other materials are posted nearby to put them in historical context.

By comparison, 45 percent of white respondents said Confederate monuments should remain as they are, and another 25 percent called for putting them in historical context. Only 23 percent said they should be moved or taken down.

"We’re in the South, and I think that people right now are very polarized," deSaillan said.

Only 10 percent of respondents who voted for Trump in 2016 said the statues should be moved or removed altogether, compared with 59 percent of those who voted for Clinton. Respondents who identified themselves as conservative were twice as likely as those who identified themselves as liberal would keep the monuments as they are or with added context.

Overall, 58 percent of those polled don't want the statues moved or taken down.

"I feel like there are a lot of people who don’t understand the pain that comes with kind of the history of the past, and, you know, the Confederacy," said Horn, who is black.

"I think that history can be read about in books. I don’t think monuments are the place for those," Morgan said.

NC sheriffs and ICE

When it comes to requiring North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration agents, blacks surveyed were more likely to balk than Latinos, according to the poll.

Several metro sheriffs, including those in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, have stopped honoring detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, which call for the sheriffs to keep people charged with crimes who are suspected of being in the country illegally in jail for up to 48 hours so immigration agents can take them into custody.

The detainers are voluntary, and the sheriffs have said they don't believe in holding people who have posted bond or completed their sentence without an actual warrant or court order. They also said cooperating with ICE agents strains the relationship their deputies have with Latino communities.

Still, state lawmakers tried last year to pass a measure that would require sheriffs to cooperate or face possible removal from office. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, however.

Forty-four percent of those polled said sheriffs should be required to cooperate, while 29 percent said they should be allowed to use their own judgment. Twelve percent said such cooperation should be prohibited, and 15 percent said they weren't sure.

About the same number of Latinos polled said sheriffs have to honor detainers (34 percent) as those who said they should use their own judgment (33 percent). Meanwhile, only 24 percent of black respondents wanted mandatory cooperation, while 39 percent said sheriffs should be free to make their own decisions.

Political ideology again was another key indicator of where people stood on the issue.

Self-identified conservatives were almost three times as likely as those who identified as liberal to require sheriffs to cooperate, 66 to 23 percent. Forty-three percent of the liberal respondents called for leaving it up to sheriffs, compared with only 17 percent of conservatives.

Trump's signature issue has been building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and cracking down on illegal immigration. More than three-quarters of the respondents who voted for him in 2016 said cooperation with ICE should be mandatory, while only 11 percent left the decision up to each sheriff.

WRAL Durham report Sarah Krueger contributed to this report.

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