Pew: Half of Americans Disapprove of Affirmative Action in College Admissions

We are awaiting the potential blockbuster ruling of the Supreme Court in the Harvard and North Carolina college admissions cases. After decades of conflicting and confusing rulings on the use of race as a factor for admissions, the Court could be close to rejecting the practice. That is why the recent Pew survey is interesting. It shows that half of Americans disapprove of the use of affirmative action in admissions and only 33% approve of the practice. The Pew results are consistent with earlier polls. Indeed, even in the most liberal states like California, voters have repeatedly rejected affirmative action in admissions.

There is the expected difference between Democrats and Republicans. Some 54% of Democrats favor affirmative action while roughly 75% of Republicans oppose it. What is interesting is that a sizable number of African Americans disapprove of the practice. Less than half of African Americans support the practice. Pew reports:

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).

That means that more white Democrats (59%) than African Americans (47%) support affirmative action in college and university admissions.

There remains a sharp divide between voters and both political and educational leaders on this practice.

Technically, affirmative action was barred decades ago by the Supreme Court. For decades, universities have avoided the type of outright quota the court held unconstitutional in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Justice Lewis Powell wrote. “Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake. This the Constitution forbids.”

However, colleges and universities have continued to use race as a factor and many insist that schools have merely become more sophisticated in hiding the weight given to race in admissions.

The last time the court dealt with the issue of race in admissions was 2016 in Fisher v. University of Texas. The court upheld the use of race in the admissions process of the University of Texas at Austin by a vote of 4-3. After the decision, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that, if Justice Elena Kagan had not recused herself, it would have been 5-3 and “that’s about as solid as you can get.” At the time, she said that she doubted “that we’re going to see another affirmative action case … at least in education.”

Ginsburg’s comment notably omitted two additional facts. First, if Justice Antonin Scalia had not died shortly before the release of the opinion, the vote would have been 4-4 (and 5-4 with Kagan). Second, courts change. While she was right about not seeing another such case during her time on the court, this is now a very different court with two of the Fisher majority no longer among its members.

There is now a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, and Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito previously voted against the University of Texas. To quote Ginsburg, with three justices previously voting against such race-based criteria and the three Trump appointees, “that’s about as solid as you can get” for a major reframing of the controlling case law.

The court has spent decades issuing often conflicting and vague 5-4 rulings on the use of race in admissions. In 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court divided 5-4 on upholding admissions criteria used to achieve “diversity” in a class at Michigan Law School. However, in her opinion with the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated that she “expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” That was 20 years ago.

In their Fisher dissent, the conservative justices noted that the university was being “less than candid” in addressing its use of race in admissions. They objected to the mantra of achieving a “critical mass” in a class without a clear definition or standards. For critics, that is an understatement. For decades, universities have evaded the impact of court decisions limiting the use of race by avoiding mathematical or threshold criteria that could be challenged. Grutter’s “diversity” rationale used race as one of a number of factors.

It appears that the majority of voters are more in agreement with Chief Justice Roberts, who has been widely attacked in the media and academia for his stance against affirmative action in admissions. In 2017, he declared: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”  In 2006, Roberts also wrote: “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”

The rulings in Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina are expected soon from the Court.

77 thoughts on “Pew: Half of Americans Disapprove of Affirmative Action in College Admissions”

  1. 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧
    by Kim Forde-Mazrui, Opinion~Judiciary Contributor – 05/21/23
    The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

    Originalism is becoming the coin of the realm at the conservative Supreme Court. Even newly appointed liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has drawn on originalist evidence in her comments during oral arguments, and Justice Elena Kagan has quipped — only somewhat facetiously — “We are all originalists.”

    If the court applies originalist analysis to the higher-education affirmative action cases currently before it, race-conscious admissions across the country should be upheld. …

    Re: July 22, 2022 :
    𝐒𝐮𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭 𝐃𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐇𝐚𝐫𝐯𝐚𝐫𝐝, 𝐔𝐍𝐂 𝐀𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐀𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐬 (𝟐)
    By: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson Reporter
    July 22, 2022

    The Supreme Court separated challenges to affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, paving the way for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s participation. …

    U.S. Order: ORDER LIST 597 U.S. ~

  2. No amount of sugarcoating can change the fact that affirmative action is immoral; it is simply a mechanism of harm administered by those who believe themselves agents of a higher power chosen to harm innocents in service to the greater good. And though modern society has eschewed the ceremonial costumes, fanatical dances, and frightening totems typical of ancient persecutors, the belief system underlying the administration of affirmative action is indistinguishable from that used to justify human sacrifice, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.

  3. “. . . the use of race as a factor for admissions . . .”

    So it was wrong for the Constitution to define blacks as 3/5 of a person. But it’s okay for universities to define blacks as 7/5 of a person?

    1. They were deined as 3/5 for the sake of state representation.. in other words it was designed to take power away from slave holding states. For the life of me I cannot fathom why people try to twist this into some sort of ” racist” nonsense.

  4. I’ve been around long enough to know that universities will never cease to use race to determine who gets in. The SC can issue to most strenuous prohibition, but academia will always find a way around it. The academic world knows that race based entry is a powerful tool towards creating their new world, and they will never, ever give it up.

  5. Affirmative Action is a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause and SCOTUS opened a Pandora’s Box when it approved the practice. Guilt doesn’t trump freedom except among those who make their livelihood off of guilt. SCOTUS knew that but pushed on allowing government picking of winners and losers instead of just applying the law. The result is the death of merit and a false sense of both entitlement and presumed competency. The country has suffered mightily from promoting the incompetent into positions of authority. Robert’s court may try to pull back but it’s already too late.

  6. I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.

    Opportunities never come a second time, nor do they wait for our leisure.

    I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.

    Great men cultivate love … only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.

    If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.

    – Booker T. Washington

    NB: Born to an enslaved person on April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Virginia, the child of an enslaved person also became enslaved. Washington’s mother, Jane, worked as a cook for plantation owner James Burroughs.

  7. Affirmative action, like weaponizing the Justice department to go after your political opponents when you can’t beat them fair and square? Yeah I’d be against that. On the other hand I’m not a Democrat.

    1. Wait! That’s what FOKM (friend of Karl Marx) and General Secretary Abraham Lincoln did, a la Joe Biden and Merrick Garland, not against unconstitutional insurrection or rebellion, but fully constitutional secession, when he illicitly and unconstitutionally seized power, declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus:

      “The clause in the Constitution which authorizes the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is in the ninth section of the first article. This article is devoted to the Legislative Department of the United States, and has not the slightest reference to the Executive Department.”

      “I can see no ground whatever for supposing that the President in any emergency or in any state of things can authorize the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or arrest a citizen except in aid of the judicial power.”

      “I have exercised all the power which the Constitution and laws confer on me, but that power has been resisted by a force too strong for me to overcome.”

      – Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, May 28, 1861

      “RECONSTRUCTION OF A SOCIAL WORLD” – Lincoln espouses Marxist anti-capitalism, anti-freedom and pro-labor positions.

      “These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.”

      – Abraham Lincoln, from his first speech as an Illinois state legislator, 1837

      “Everyone now is more or less a Socialist.”

      – Charles Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, and Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, 1848

      “The goal of Socialism is Communism.”

      – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

      “The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the RECONSTRUCTION OF A SOCIAL WORLD.”

      – Karl Marx and the First International Workingmen’s Association to Lincoln, 1864

      Letter of congratulation and commendation from Karl Marx to Abraham Lincoln:

  8. I see Bobby Kennedy made it to our southern border. K. Harris, are you paying attention

  9. I favored Affirmative Action for 20 years after Democrat pressured segregation ended.

    Retaining Affirmative Action is an impediment to getting hired for those who are artificially advanced through the education system, though.

  10. Congress may not deny constitutional rights and freedoms to impose affirmative action.

    Congress may not legislate to provide different or superior rights to impose affirmative action.

    Congress may not amend the Constitution through regulation to impose affirmative action.

    Congress may not legislate to regulate or compel affirmative action on private property.

    Article 1, Section 8, provides Congress the power to regulate only the value of money, the “flow” of commerce, and land and naval Forces.

    The 5th Amendment right to private property is absolute and provides only the owner the power to “claim and exercise” dominion over private property.

  11. One can only hope that there will be multiple very expensive law suits brought against that Anti-Asian racist in higher education once the law is changed.

  12. For those that generally oppose affirmative action, are you alright with colleges and employers reaching out to racial and ethnic communities through marketing, advertising, and college/job fairs to increase the low rate of applications from those communities? Thanks.

    1. For private schools (which don’t get public money) and private employers, sure. go for it. For public schools and employers, no way.

    2. No, i’m not alright with it. Why should anyone be coaxed into doing something? If they’re too stupid to apply or to lazy, isn’t that their fault ? And since when does anyone prosper due to ” diversity” other than fulfilling some globalist ESG, DEI initiative.

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