LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - An overwhelming majority of likely Kentucky voters think the statute of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis should remain in the state capitol rotunda, according to a new WKYT Herald-Leader Bluegrass Poll.
The poll — conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV — found 73 percent of those surveyed think the statue should remain where its been since 1934.
Seventeen percent thought the statue of the Kentucky native should be removed.
The statue, which was paid for through private donations and a $5,000 allocation approved by the 1934 legislature, is one of several in the capitol rotunda.
The statue wound up being a hot topic this summer as debate over Confederate symbols moved to the forefront following the Charleston church massacre.
“It’s time to reconsider the statues which represent Kentucky in our state capitol, as each statue has been in place for more than a half century," said Gov. Steve Beshear, who asked the Historic Properties Advisory Commission to review all monuments displayed at the state capitol for their context in Kentucky's history.
Beshear's action came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and others said Kentucky should review the placement of the statue or remove it.
McConnell noted that Kentucky never officially joined the confederacy.
"I think it's appropriate certainly in Kentucky to be talking about the appropriateness of continuing to have Jefferson Davis' statue in a very prominent place in our state capital," McConnell said. "Maybe a better place for that would be the Kentucky History Museum, which is also in the state Capitol."
Matt Bevin, Kentucky's Republican nominee for governor, and Robert Stivers, the Republican president of the state Senate, also said the statue should be removed.
Bevin said he applauded South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for asking lawmakers to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds and said it would be equally appropriate for Kentucky to remove the statue of Davis, the only president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Democratic nominee Jack Conway also agreed with Haley's decision but said he would have to think about whether he would support removing the statue.
"In a poll that had a lot of neck and neck races, this was one answer that there was no confusion. Kentucky voters said leave Jefferson Davis where he is," said Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman. "It makes you wonder if some of these candidates really put themselves out on a limb here by calling for its removal."
Kentucky historian Ron Bryant said whether the statue stays in the rotunda or ends up somewhere else, it's still important to remember Davis' place in history.
"If you don't learn the lessons of history, you're sure to repeat the mistakes that they made through the years," Bryant said.
About the poll
SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults from the state July 22-28. Of the adults, 856 were registered to vote in Kentucky. Of the registered voters, 685 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the November 3 election for Governor. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a landline telephone (72 percent of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (28 percent of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device. Respondents to this survey were asked both what their party registration is, and what their party affiliation is. Party registration is reported herein as a binary result: 53 percent of likely voters are registered Democrat; 35 percent of likely voters are Republican. Among registered voters, the split is: 51 percent Democrat and 34 percent Republican. Separately, the same likely voters were asked to place themselves on a seven-point continuum, from "Strong Republican" to "Strong Democrat." Those results are also reported herein. In addition, voters were asked to place themselves on a five-point continuum from "Very Conservative" to "Very Liberal." Those results are reported herein.