Poll: Conservative views still dominate in Mississippi

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Mississippians hold more conservative attitudes than other Southerners on several social topics they were polled on in the NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll done in collaboration with Mississippi Today.

Asked if they favor or oppose the removal of Confederate monuments and statues from public places, 65% of Mississippi respondents were strongly or somewhat opposed, compared to 61% of those polled in other Southern states.

Other responses that provided insight into how attitudes of Mississippi residents compare to those of residents across the South:

• Given two options on what to do about undocumented workers living in the United States, 63 percent in Mississippi favored offering them a chance to apply for legal status, while a larger 69 percent across the South favored that step. As to the other option, deportation to their country of origin, 34 percent of Mississippians polled voiced approval, compared to just 28 percent in the broader Southern states poll.

• Mississippians generally reflected their Southern neighbors when asked about race relations with 62 percent saying those relations were the same or getting better, compared to 64 percent expressing the same views across the South.

• Sixty-five percent of Mississippians, according to the poll, say business owners should be allowed to refuse services to same sex couples – guaranteed by a 2016 law, House Bill 1523, the subject of an appeal in the federal courts. Thirty percent of Mississippians believe the law should require business owners to provide services to same sex couples.

• A similar question was not asked in the Southern states poll, but on a question of whether respondents “support or oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry legally” 55 percent expressed some level of support, with 42 percent opposed.

The poll results show that while across the South generally, more moderate views are emerging, Mississippi generally continues to reflect conservative values. Go here to read the NBC News report on the Southern states regional poll.

The Mississippi and Southern state polls were conducted online March 12-25 using Survey Monkey, the national online polling firm. States where polling took place were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The Mississippi poll had 1,486 respondents, with an error estimate of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The Southern states poll garnered 4,132 responses and had an error estimate of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

As might be expected, the more significant differences of opinion occurred between Republicans and Democrats and white and black people who were polled.

For example, on the question of removing Confederate monuments and statues, 65 of white respondents were strongly opposed with another 16 percent somewhat opposed and just 17 percent favoring such action. Among black respondents, 54 percent said they favor removing the monuments, while 40 percent also expressed some level of opposition to removing the markers that are featured in many communities across the state.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville

“Those monuments are historical monuments,” said Rep. Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, who offered legislation this year to prevent their removal. “They mark part of our state’s history. I believe they’re relevant, important, and I believe they should stay there. There are some great, positive things we’ve done in our state, and there are some things we’re not so proud of. We need to move forward with some of the good things we’ve done, and remember the bad things so we don’t repeat them.”

While bills to protect Confederate statues and memorials have passed in Alabama and North Carolina, the Mississippi Legislature did not act on Arnold’s bill this session.

Regarding citizenship for undocumented immigrants, younger respondents tended to favor offering immigrants a chance for legal status. Of 18-24 year olds in Mississippi, 78 percent supported legal status, while just 20 percent favored deporting undocumented immigrants.

Just 48 percent of Mississippians age 65 and up, however, support offering legal status, while 46 percent of the same age group support deportation.

On the question of race relations in Mississippi, 44 percent of black respondents said they felt that conditions were getting worse, while just 31 percent of white respondents held that view. Across the South, 39% of black respondents expressed concern that race relations are getting worse, compared to 32 percent of white respondents.

Younger respondents expressed more concern about the condition of race relations, with a plurality of 43 percent of the 18-24 age group and 44 percent of the 25-34 age group expressing the sentiment that relations are getting worse. Older age groups trended more toward relations “staying about the same.” In the Southern states regional poll, no age group had a plurality expressing the opinion that race relations are getting worse.

Just 13 percent of black Mississippi respondents and 22 percent of white respondents said race relations in the state were getting better, according to the poll.

Legislative leaders have made social issues a central focus at the Capitol the past few years. Following the past session, most Republican lawmakers interviewed said they were proudest of passing the strictest abortion ban in the nation, which was immediately blocked by a federal court.

When lawmakers passed House Bill 1523 in 2016, the law was immediately blocked by federal courts. After months of legal battles at the district and appeals level, the Supreme Court in January upheld the appeal court’s decision that the law should stand.

One of the law’s core tenets – allowing business owners to refuse services to same sex couples – is supported broadly by Republicans in Mississippi, according to the poll. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans said they supported this function of the law, while just 12 percent said business owners should be required to serve same sex couples by law.

Even 43 percent of Democrats polled supported that aspect of the law, while 55 percent of Democrats said the law should require business owners to serve same sex couples.

The NBC News|SurveyMonkey polls were conducted March 12-25, 2018, among a national sample of 15,238 adults (+/- 1.1); a regional sample of 4,132 adults who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (+/- 2.4); a sample of 1,486 adults who live in Mississippi (+/-4.6); a sample of 1,498 adults who live in Alabama (+/- 4.5); a sample of 2,209 adults who live in Georgia (+/- 3.4); and a sample of 1,710 adults who live in Tennessee (+/- 4.1). Respondents for this nonprobability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. For full results and methodology, click here.