Mississippi Today bills itself as a “nonpartisan news service that aggressively covers state and local government affairs and community issues including education, health, economic development, poverty and race as well as Mississippi’s social culture,” but it’s latest article on the state flag is anything but nonpartisan.
Under the headline “State flag poll: Less than half of voters support Confederate design,” the article by Adam Ganucheau contends that public opinion is shifting away from the current design in the on-going flag debate. “A September survey of Mississippi voters by Jackson-based, Democratic-leaning polling firm Chism Strategies shows that just 49 percent of Mississippians favor the current state flag while 41 percent want to retire it and 10 percent are undecided about the issue,” he writes.
But why the misleading headline? Anyone glancing at the piece would quickly deduce from the heading that since less than half of voters support the current flag (barely), then that must mean more than half oppose it. But as the poll showed, just 41 percent want it changed, so supporters of the flag are winning and would most certainly pick up at least some of the remaining 10 percent who are undecided.
Yet these kinds of polls are notoriously inaccurate, sometimes being off by significant margins. Not only is the polling firm “Democratic-leaning,” with suspect methods, but people don’t generally tell pollsters the truth on such hot-button issues as the Confederate flag. Those are major reasons why every poll had Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump.
Most telling of all, though, was that 55 percent of voters believe the 2001 referendum settled the matter, with just 27 percent saying it did not. That should be enough to end the debate. Given the current state of our politics today, calling for a new vote would not go smoothly.
The “nonpartisan” article ended with this quote: “Opponents of a new state flag feel much more strongly than do new flag advocates,” a Chism Strategies statement said. “Moreover, this flag debate would probably get high-jacked by the Far Right as a rallying cry in the culture wars and the final vote would not reflect the merits of a new flag.”
By skewing leftward with anti-flag statements, while using a photo of an altered state flag (red and blue bars are reversed from the actual flag, but most wouldn’t notice it) carried by members of the KKK (below), this is hardly a nonpartisan effort.