Public Support for Political Compromise on a Volatile Racial Issue: Insight from the Survey Experiment

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Abstract

In 2000, South Carolina officials, after years of political wrangling over the flying of the Confederate flag over the state capitol, finally removed it, placing it at a Confederate monument on the statehouse grounds. Here, via iterative survey experimentation, I look at the public response to the political compromise required to bring down the flag. I show that the public did respond positively to the multifaceted compromise and that black flag opponents were much more likely than white flag proponents to support the compromise. I also show that more white flag proponents can be swayed to support the compromise if they understand that it is supported by a majority of South Carolinians, thus breaking their misperception of the issue. Flag proponents, however, do not respond more positively to compromise simply because it is the by-product of white and black negotiations. The political process necessarily evokes competitive intergroup attitudes. Can we think about process in a way that redirects these attitudes and makes political compromise more acceptable?

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