73 Percent Of Kentucky Voters Say Jefferson Davis Statue Should Stay In Capitol

Aug 4, 2015

Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Most Kentucky voters support keeping the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol rotunda, according to Bluegrass Poll results released Monday.

The state Historic Properties Advisory Commission on Wednesday will review recently gathered public comments on whether the Davis statue should be removed from the Capitol rotunda, which is considered a place of honor for notable Kentuckians.

In June, top elected officials in Kentucky called for the removal of the statue as state governments across the South reevaluated prominent Confederate icons on state properties. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear called for the historic properties commission — which curates the statues in the rotunda — to seek public input and review the statue “in context of Kentucky’s history.”

On Monday, the Bluegrass Poll showed that 73 percent of Kentucky voters think the statue should stay in the Capitol building; 17 percent said the statue should be moved to a museum, and 10 percent said they were sure.

Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said he was not surprised by the overwhelming support for the statue.

“I think many people think he’s a native son and see him as part of the historical legacy,” Clayton said.

Kentucky officials who have said the statue should be removed include Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, as well as Republican Senate President Robert Stivers. Conway is also the Democratic nominee for governor.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin’s campaign has also said the statue belongs in a museum.

Despite public support for keeping the statue in the rotunda, Clayton said it makes sense for politicians to call for its removal.

“As we move forward, do we still want to still have all these symbols around that are very divisive as opposed to trying to unite people?” he said.

Even though both major candidates for governor called for removing the statue, it’s unlikely the issue will translate to the polls, said Steve Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.

“Any savvy politician knows that for most of those respondents, it’s nowhere near a priority for them,” Voss said. “The chance that more than a dozen people are going to vote based on what we do with the Jefferson Davis statue is pretty small.”

The Bluegrass Poll was conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV, The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV.