Originally created 01/17/04

Survey says voters favor current flag



ATLANTA - When it's time to pick which flag should fly over Georgia, people are leaning toward the current banner, according to a survey released Friday.

Forty-eight percent of respondents opted for the flag that flies today, a banner with red and white stripes and a blue corner bearing the state seal. It was enacted last year at the urging of Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Thirty-seven percent preferred the previous flag that Mr. Perdue's predecessor, Democrat Roy Barnes, pushed through in 2001. It has a blue background and miniature images of past state flags and a more prominent version of the state seal in the middle.

Ten percent of those questioned said they liked the 1956 version of the flag, which Mr. Barneshad replaced. That version included the controversial cross of St. Andrew borrowed from the Confederate battle flag and co-opted by many white supremacist groups.

The 1956 flag won't be on the ballot.

Many people don't seem to understand this soon what will be on the March 2 ballot. Courtney Jones's reaction was like several others interviewed.

"I like the red and white one," she said, pointing to the current one on a downtown flagpole.

When she was told that legislators based the current design on the official flag of the Confederate States of America to preserve the historic connection to the past, she changed her mind.

"We're going into the future. It's time to put the past to rest," she said.

A voter-education campaign could change other voters between now and the vote March 2, which coincides with the presidential preference primary. Democrats could see it as an opportunity to reclaim some glory for Mr. Barnes for having the courage to sponsor a design that wasn't mostly based on Rebel emblems.

Democrats in the survey were less enthusiastic about the current flag than Republicans.

"Whether this would have political implications beyond the flag itself remains to be seen," said Matt Towery, the chairman of InsiderAdvantage, which commissioned the survey for Morris News Service and other media outlets."But in the hands of creative political strategists, an unexpected flag upset could give Democrats an opportunity to turn around their recent bad fortunes and get momentum going their way again."

Reach Walter C. Jones at (404) 589-8424 or walter.jones@morris.com.