Majority of Mississippi Residents Want to Change State Flag, Poll Says

A majority of Mississippi voters now support ditching the state's flag and replacing it with a new one that does not include Confederate imagery.

An opinion poll released Wednesday finds that 55 percent of voters favor changing the current flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle flag, while 41 percent oppose it.

The poll was released by the Mississippi Economic Council, the state's chamber of commerce and a proponent for replacing the flag. It was conducted last week by Republican polling firm The Tarrance Group and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Support for changing the flag rose to 72 percent when the alternative presented was a "state seal flag" that includes the motto "In God We Trust," which was first adopted as the official U.S. motto by Congress in 1956.

The latest poll represents a major shift in public opinion on the issue. The group conducted a nearly identical poll in January 2019 and found that 54 percent opposed changing the flag, with only 43 percent in favor.

Those calling for the flag to be replaced have been urging the state's Republican-led legislature to vote on the issue before the end of the current legislative session, which lawmakers hope to conclude on Friday. They have been met with some resistance, although support for holding a vote has increased in recent days.

Pressure to move on the issue ramped up last week, when the NCAA announced that they would be banning Mississippi colleges from hosting championship athletic events until the flag was changed.

Mississippi State Flag
Mississippi's state flag has long attracted controversy due to it featuring the Confederate battle flag, which some believe is a choice that glorifies and supports the Confederacy's legacy of slavery and racism. Bill Colgin/Getty

A proposal to resolve the issue by adopting a second flag while keeping the current one intact was quickly shot down by the NCAA and prominent figures including Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.

The issue was put before voters in a 2001 referendum, which saw a majority of 64 percent vote to keep the current flag. Despite the shift in polling, many who favor changing the flag fear a similar outcome if another public vote is held. Regardless, Reeves believes the issue should be decided by voters only.

"Governor Reeves believes that if Mississippians decide we should change our flag, it should only be done by a vote of the people," said Renae Eze, spokesperson for Reeves, in a statement to Newsweek. "We must work together as a state to find a solution where, when everyone has their say, we can come back together and unite as a people proud of our future."

"Governor Reeves continues to review all options and have productive conversations with Mississippians of all backgrounds to get their input and find the best way forward for our Mississippi family," Eze added.

Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann issued a statement on Wednesday indicating his support for allowing the legislature to settle the issue, while also noting that he would support a new flag that includes "In God We Trust."

"We must look to a flag for our collective future to be flown over our collective assets," Hosemann said. "I, like the majority of Mississippians, am open to changing our current flag."

"The Legislature in 1894 selected the current flag and the Legislature should address it today," he added. "Failing to do so only harms us and postpones the inevitable."

Although the current flag has been controversial for decades, it has come under increased scrutiny amid ongoing protests against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd. It is the only state flag that still features an intact version of the Confederate battle flag, while several other southern state flags continue to include elements that evoke the Confederacy. Georgia's flag displays an early version of the Confederate flag, while the flags of Arkansas and Tennessee both feature imagery that evoke the stars on the battle flag.