Most adult Americans oppose affirmative action in higher education, according to a new poll released on Wednesday by The Economist and British analytics firm YouGov.
In the recent online survey of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted between Oct. 22 and Oct. 25, a majority of 54% said colleges and universities should not consider an applicant’s race to boost student diversity. Those who expressed support composed less than a quarter (23%), which was equal to those who said they were “not sure” (23%). The poll comes after the Supreme Court heard arguments on affirmative action cases lodged against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) on Monday. Observers believe the court is poised to toss the policy, which was last upheld nearly two decades ago as a temporary measure to diversify student bodies. “When does it end? When is your sunset? When will you know?” questioned Justice Amy Coney Barrett, as per CBS News. “Because Grutter very clearly says this is so dangerous. Grutter doesn’t say this is great, we embrace this. Grutter says this is dangerous and it has to have an end point.”
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Barrett was referring to the suggestion of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger. At the time, O’Connor said, “25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.”
In terms of race, the new poll shows that 64% of white Americans oppose affirmative action, compared to 16% who approve and 20% who are uncertain. Meanwhile, the number of Black Americans and Hispanic Americans who opposed the policy (both 32%) were only slightly less than their counterparts who approved of it (both 36%).
The poll, however, does not visibly show the opinion of Asian Americans, who happen to be at the center of the Harvard case. The survey only listed statistics from white, Black and Hispanic Americans while noting that 7% of the respondents identified their race as “Other.”
In terms of political affiliation, an overwhelming majority of Republicans (77%) opposed affirmative action, compared to a third of Democrats (34%) and a slight majority of Independents (55%). Meanwhile, 40% of Democrats, 17% of Independents and 10% of Republicans supported affirmative action.