As we await the Supreme Court decision that could bring an end to affirmative action, Pew Research has published the results of a poll showing that fully half of US adults disapprove of it.
Half of U.S. adults say they disapprove of selective colleges and universities taking prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds into account when making admissions decisions. Fewer (33%) approve of colleges considering race and ethnicity to increase diversity at the schools, while 16% are not sure.
With the court nearing the end of its term and decisions in two related cases involving the private Harvard College and the public University of North Carolina expected to be issued in the next several weeks, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans are nearly three times as likely to say they strongly disapprove of colleges doing this (29%) as they are to say they strongly approve (11%).
The split among partisans is not surprising. Nearly 75% of Republicans oppose it and 54% of Democrats approve of it. Still, that leaves 29% of Democrats who disapprove. The racial divides are also probably what you would predict.
Nearly half of Black Americans (47%) say they approve of colleges and universities considering prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds when making admissions decisions, compared with 29% who disapprove (24% are not sure).
Among Hispanic Americans, identical shares approve and disapprove of these practices (39% each). Both White and Asian Americans are more likely to disapprove of colleges doing this (57% of White adults and 52% of Asian adults) than to approve (29% and 37%, respectively).
The most interesting result here is that the partisan political divide on this issue is bigger than the racial divide. Only 47% of Black Americans overall support this but white Democrats are at 59 percent:
Roughly six-in-ten White Democrats (59%) approve of race and ethnicity being considered in college admissions decisions, while about a quarter (26%) oppose this. An identical share of Black Democrats express opposition to these practices, while half express support. Black Democrats are more likely than White Democrats to say they’re unsure (23% vs. 15%).
Hispanic and Asian Democrats both support affirmative action at 48%, about the same as Black Democrats. So it’s really white Democrats who are for this. There were only two groups who showed even stronger support. Black Americans with a college degree (64%) and liberal Democrats (66%).
As for why various groups support or oppose affirmative action, the usual answer is fairness and that’s true for people on both sides.
Those who disapprove of the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions overwhelmingly (78%) say this makes the overall admissions process less fair. Views about the effect on the fairness of admissions are more mixed among those who approve of taking race and ethnicity into account: By more than two-to-one, more say this makes the process more fair (46%) than less fair (20%), while about three-in-ten (29%) say it does not affect the overall fairness of admissions.
Anyway, I think the poll gives you a pretty good idea who is going to be most upset if the Supreme Court strikes this down. It’s going to be liberals, college-educated Black Americans and white Democrats. But getting back to the top number, half of adults disapprove of this and only a third approve. I doubt that will be reflected in the coverage of the outcome but what can you expect from a media that is almost entirely made up of liberal white Democrats.