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Poll: Views on Charleston shooting, Confederate flag

A KKK rally at the South Carolina State House became a focal point for discussions about race and freedom of speech
Legacy of hate: KKK rally fuels dialogue about race relations in U.S. 05:08

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

On June 17, nine black Americans were killed in a Charleston, South Carolina church, allegedly by a lone white gunman named Dylann Roof, who claimed he was attempting to incite a race war in America.

Several relatives of the victims' families said they forgave Roof for the killings.

Americans are divided as to whether or not they would have forgiven Roof if they were in the relatives' position, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll. Forty-two percent say they would have, while 47 percent would not. Black Americans (50 percent) are more likely than whites (39 percent) to say they would have forgiven the killer.

Taking Down the Confederate Flag

After the shooting, pictures emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate flag and emblems of various white supremacist movements. On July 10, the Confederate flag was taken down from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of this action, including 52 percent of whites and 81 percent of blacks.


Blacks and whites also express different views on what the Confederate flag symbolizes. While 57 percent of whites - and 51 percent of Americans overall - see the Confederate flag as more of a symbol of Southern pride than of racism, 68 percent of blacks see it more as a symbol of racism.


In the South, the racial divide is even starker: 65 percent of white Southerners see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride, while 75 percent of black southerners see it as symbol of racism.


In the wake of the Charleston shooting, a number of national retailers including Walmart,, and Target announced they would no longer be selling merchandise that displayed the Confederate flag. Just 21 percent of Americans say that they would be less likely to shop at a retailer who sold Confederate flags and merchandise, including 17 percent of whites and 40 percent of blacks.

Three in 4 Americans overall, including 54 percent of blacks, say selling such merchandise would not make a difference to them in where they chose to shop.

This poll was conducted by telephone July 14-19, 2015 among a random sample of 1,205 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from random samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

Additional interviews were conducted with African Americans, who had previously completed a survey as part of a random sample, to yield a sample size of 312 African Americans. 751 whites were interviewed.

The combined African American and non-African American samples were weighted separately to match their group's population characteristics such as gender, age, education, region, marital status and phone use based on recent U.S. Census estimates. The samples were then combined and weighted to the total U.S. adult population.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. The margin of error for the sample of whites is 4 points and 8 points for African Americans. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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