SC Senate votes to remove Confederate flag. Is support for the flag vanishing?

The South Carolina Senate voted 36-3 to remove the Confederate flag from flying in front of the State House.

Tim Dominick/The State/AP
South Carolina senators John Scott and Joel Lourie hug after the South Carolina Senate passed the second reading of a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, Monday, July 6, 2015, in Columbia, S.C.

After a nearly unanimous vote in the South Carolina Senate to take down the Confederate Battle Flag, eyes turn to South Carolina's House of Representatives.

The fast-tracked legislation cleared a preliminary hurdle in the state senate last week by a count of 37-3, and a full Senate vote Tuesday morning by a count of 36-3. Next stop: debate and a vote in the House.

While the overwhelming vote and the sustained public outcry suggest that removal of the flag is more or less inevitable, a number of key political players in the House, including Speaker Jay Lucas, have yet to make their voices heard on the issue. 

A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 57 percent of the 1,017 American adults sampled believe the flag represents Southern pride, while only 33 percent felt that the flag was primarily a symbol of racism. However, the same poll found that 55 percent of those surveyed supported "removing Confederate flags from government property that is not part of a museum."

This represents a slow but significant decline in the popularity of the flag. In 1992, 69 percent of Americans saw the flag as a symbol of Southern pride while 22 percent saw it as a as a symbol of racism; that year 55 percent said they thought that it was all right to fly the flag over state grounds while 40 percent said they wanted to stop the practice.  

By 2000, a Gallup poll on American attitudes towards the Confederate flag indicated that 28 percent of Americans saw the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, while 59 percent of said they viewed the flag primarily as a symbol of Southern pride.

In the South Carolina Senate, three amendments tried to alter the thrust of the bill: a proposal to put a different Confederate flag on the pole, an option to fly the flag only on Confederate Memorial Day, and leaving the flag's fate up to a popular vote. All three amendments were rejected.

In order for the flag to be removed, legislation must pass both the State House and Senate by a 2/3 margin, as well as be supported by the governor. It has now cleared the first hurdle, and the third seems inevitable, as Governor Nikki Haley called for removing the flag from the capitol grounds on June 22.

Legislators in the South Carolina Senate have called for the removal of the flag before, including Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who suggested that the flag be taken down when he was running for governor last year. “We’re never going to move towards the future if we keep looking always to the past,” said Mr. Sheheen in October 2014.  At the time, Ms. Haley referred to the suggestion as a "stunt," but has since changed her tune.

"I applaud the Senate's decisive action," said Haley after Monday's preliminary vote, "and ask that the House act swiftly and follow the Senate's lead."

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