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



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?