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. Throughout its existence, the Democratic Party has supported laws and policies that treat Americans differently based on their race.

    From race-based slavery, race-based restaurants, race-based hotels, race-based public restrooms, and race-based public transportation in days gone by to race-based hiring, race-based career advancement, race-based government contracts, and race-based college admissions, dormitories, and graduation ceremonies today, Democratic leaders have continuously supported discriminatory laws and policies.

    Fortunately, many regular, everyday Democrats are beginning to question these decisions.

  2. Interesting that most people look at the issue in the black/white context. Very little said about the huge number of Asians discriminated against purely because of race. The issue has filtered down to state Universities also, and very bright high scoring Asians don’t make the cut to enter competitive engineering or med schools, yet they do get into more selective schools that are less woke.

    Today the first choice of very bright Asians is MIT, simply because they don’t discriminate because of race, nor sports, nor legacy.

    1. I haven’t done any scientific study, but to me it appears that based on gender there are more women on univesaty campuses than men. If we were to accept applicants based strictly on academic ashievement, asians would lead the way. There are so much classroom space in this country if want to go onward in higher education, you can do it. How much classroom space is on line. Stop all this diversity and inclusiveness crap and just let academic achievement lead the way.

    2. I see the jews are 2200% to 2700% over represented in these university admissions, are they fighting for fairness for whites and asians and Christians or are they on the side of the race mongers ?
      I’d say by the looks of it, we can’t count on them.
      They may be the reason this is occurring, since they hold the very top skew of affirmative action admission.

  3. The 1/2 that approve of affirmative action are women and minorities who are the recipients of it.

    1. And the jews. They are top over representation, and appear to be running the whole scam for themselves.

      1. Intellectually the Jews are more prevalent, for good and bad. Anti-Semites fail to understand the statistical relevance because they are poorly educated and lack intellectual ability.

  4. The broader, and in my view, more damaging problem with affirmative action is that it creates a permanent and unfair taint of any and all in the “oppressed” group and what they accomplish. Those individuals within the group who achieve without the help of and added advantage will always be suspect of not necessarily achieving the “real” standard. Consequently and ironically, affirmative action makes it even harder to overcome any erroneous stereotypes that deserve to be dispelled.

    1. carpslaw: True, and a good point you make, -that since the use of affirmative action in any particular case is not public knowledge, “Those individuals within the group who achieve without the help of [an] added advantage will always be suspect of not necessarily achieving the ‘real’ standard.” (…their accomplishments/achievements being dismissed with a smirk…). Thanks for sharing a valid consideration.

      1. Lin, I agree, and there are many other ways in which “affirmative action” hurts the ostensible beneficiaries:

        1. Mismatching, where students are admitted to institutions they are not well prepared for and either fail, perform poorly or choose easy subjects, while they would have thrived in challenging subjects at other institutions;

        2. Reduced incentives, where high school students who understand the leg up they will be given do not feel the need to work as hard as they would otherwise, and where schools and teachers can avoid the hard work of better preparing their students; and

        3. Becoming targets of resentment by those who lose out due to the benefits provided.

        In addition, there is the massive social cost of failure to fill positions based on objective qualifications for those positions. This is largely unseen, but obvious if you think about mandating proportional representation in sports.

        1. All excellent points! They make it clear that on the whole affirmative is a substantial net negative for the “oppressed” group and society as a whole.

        2. Daniel: excellent additional realities/considerations, -thanks for fleshing this out even more.

        3. D: Did you read this?

          _Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It_, by Sander and Taylor.

          “Sander and Taylor have long admired affirmative action’s original goals, but after many years of studying racial preferences, they have reached a controversial but undeniable conclusion: that preferences hurt underrepresented minorities far more than they help them. At the heart of affirmative action’s failure is a simple phenomenon called mismatch.”

  5. I fully expect SCOTUS will complete Justice O’Connor’s prediction. The challenge is how.

    A poor way to do it is to make the change instantaneous, which will generate howls of victimhood and racial prejudice.

    A slicker way would be to uphold O’Connor’s exact timetable, which will send the message that preparation time will be given to middle-school students to prepare for Ivy League admissions in 2028 based on merit, and blind to race / ethnicity.

    Such an approach accomplishes several political and cultural goals. 1) By standing on the shoulders of O’Connor, the Court can partially blunt accusations of being an activist, conservative court — since they are not making a grand shift, but only recognizing that affirmative action had a role to play TRANSITIONALLY moving from a racist nation to a post-racial one. The Court would merely be recognizing the passage of those 25 years of change.

    2) By specifying a 5-year ramp-up time to full elimination of affirmative action, the Court is asserting the reality that merit-based, post-racial college admissions obliges long-term preparation on the part of parents and students. Such an approach highlights the importance of half a decade of preparation time for students who aspire to the college of their choice. This challenges the progressive “instant fix” (affirmative action) for something that actually requires years of preparation to be successful — redefining the goal from getting into a desired college to graduating from said college.

    I know, sunsetting affirmative action 5 years from now will lead to conservative howls “if AA is unconstitutional in 5 years, how is it not unconstitutional now?”

    The answer is nuanced but bears candor…..the law evolves with society, and successful evolution often requires timeframes for change that give advance preparation time for change, but not so much as to stall or impede.

    1. That would definitely be a nuanced and sophisticated approach. But it does violence to the Constitution. If racial discrimination is unconstitutional, I don’t see how one can sunset violations of constitutional rights over a five-year period.

      1. Really? When the 1789 Constitution was Ratified, it set a 20-year timeframe for halting the slave trade (by 1808).

        I imagine some abolishionists howled “if the importation of slaves is to become unconstitutional after 1808, why is it constitutional in 1790?”

        And that wasn’t a SCOTUS case precedent…the timeframe for legal change was written by the Founders and ratified. It was clearly a political compromise between the slave states and the free states.

        My proposed way to ending affirmative action follows that same way of thinking.

        1. You’re absurdly using an example of a delay in removing one evil to justify the delay in removing another evil. And that example involved a 20-year time frame, as you say, but it’s already been 20 years since Sandra Day O’Connor’s unjustified charity suggestion. Racial discrimination against even Asian & Whites is wrong & illegal. It should have never existed.

        2. It was clearly a political compromise between the slave states and the free states.

          pbinca – That’s my whole point. It was a political decision. If Congress enacted a 5-year sunset on AA, it would be fine. But SCOTUS is a judicial body, making judicial declarations of what the law is. I don’t see how it can say AA violates constitutional rights, but then say, let’s have a five-year sunset on such violations.

    2. No, what’s wrong & counterproductive should go right away: there will always be these howls of victimhood and racial prejudice no matter when it’s ended. Gotta have excuses for failure. AA in any sneaky form is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and should end.

    3. ” A poor way to do it is to make the change instantaneous, which will generate howls of victimhood and racial prejudice.”

      why ? it was implemented immediately in the 60’s.. it can be unimplemented immediately

    4. @pbinCA — The problem with your suggestion is that you now have the judicial branch legislating. When I look back at the multitude of bad court decisions the pattern that emerges is that bad law comes from the courts trying to do Congress’ job.
      Affirmative Action is — and always has been — unconstitutional. The time to end it is NOW. Not tomorrow. Not in five years. Today.
      Fortunately, the founders foresaw that the need would arise, from time to time, to modify the constitution and, fortunately, they embedded the means to do so into the constitution. If others want racial discrimination (or any discrimination, for that matter) to be legal in the United States, the path to do so is clear: Add an amendment. Simple as that.

  6. Affirmative action was a good idea at one time. But it’s time to move on. I’m happy with the time I have lived because of the experiences I have had.
    Grades 1-3 integrated army schools in Mannheim, Germany. grades 4-10 segregated schools in the Atlanta Public Schools. Grades 11-12 integrated Atlanta Public High School (few African American Students but they were starting to really increase. Emory University 4 years with first African American student in my 2nd year 1967-68. (Univ of Georgia had been integrated in 1961 under court order), 4 years at Med College of Georgia (3rd class to have African American students and several women) Class was 123 white guys, 7 African American Men, 6 white women-already had some women residents. 5 years at Baylor Col of Medicine and the dam burst with black, white, lots of women, Muslims, Christian’s, Jews, and many others and especially from the Middle East (including chief residents and fellows), Faculty was black, white, and all the rest. Med Col of Georgia is now 250 per class and climbing and half are minorities and women.
    We all no longer need affirmative action for races or ethnic groups. Intelligence, hard work, long hours and commitment. That’s how you do it. Strange but it seemed that everyone of my colleagues, over the years, no matter the race, ethnicity, religion or whatever used virtually the same formula to make a success of themselves. It is not a secret formula hidden behind some 23 digit passcode.
    Case in point – 1 of the African American men in my class (of 7) became the dean of primary care at MCG and also assistant dean of the entire school. Also one of the hardest working people I ever knew. Another had a successful private practice and then rejoined the faculty and is one of my closest friends. His daughter is double board certified in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry and also on the faculty.
    Those that fail, no matter the color or religion or ethnicity are those that don’t work hard, are sloppy, and simply don’t commit and don’t learn from their mistakes (and all doctors make mistakes-the good ones learn from them). Strange but those that make it through medical school but still don’t work hard and commit seem to never have much in the way of practices, jump from job to job or get canned, or simply wander around trying to figure out why people don’t beat a path to their door.
    We always need the best, no matter what their exterior package looks like. And DEI needs to literally die.

    1. GEB: All well and said by you, but, respectfully, there have been MANY laudable African-American doctors (and lawyers, etc.) in America YEARS, -and almost a century, prior to affirmative action.
      I would suspect that your “Case in point” (above) was a pupil of “Intelligence, hard work, long hours and commitment” principles (your words) in high school and undergraduate work and WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED in admission to medical school WITHOUT affirmative action—based on the qualities that you articulate.
      To prove my point,
      “In 1864, after years as a nurse, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman in the United States to receive an MD degree. She earned that distinction at the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts — where she also was the institution’s only black graduate…
      “Louis Wade Sullivan, MD, grew up in the racially segregated rural South in the 1930s. There, he was inspired by his doctor, Joseph Griffin. “He was the only black physician in a radius of 100 miles,” Sullivan said. “I saw that Dr. Griffin was really doing something important and he was highly respected in the community.”
      See, also, to name just a few:
      “Dr. Daniel H. Williams, MD… studied medicine at Chicago Medical College and graduated with his Medical Degree in 1883…
      “Dr. Myra A. Logan, MD, graduated from New York Medical College in 1933 with her MD and soon became an associate surgeon at Harlem Hospital. In 1943, Dr. Logan became the first woman to perform heart surgery…
      “Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, MD, MS, was a pioneer in renal transplantation. He received his MS in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas and soon became the first African American admitted into the medical school there. He graduated and received his MD in 1958…

      We can both agree that the attributes you listed are the ones of importance for success in any career–not artificial criteria, placement, or advancement.

  7. This means half of Americans are “nazis” too.

    Amazing how our libtard moral bettors do not usually choose to live around diversity, give up their nice jobs or their kid’s place at an elite university.

    Fortunately being a good, virtue signaling s@@tlib does not require getting one’s hands dirty or having to live with the result of policies they support. It only requires having the right sign in your yard.


    1. Ever notice those that scream ” diversity” the loudest always live in wealthy lilly white areas ?

  8. I am and have always been very much against affirmative action. Just like “reparations,” it creates a multitude of substitute beneficiaries/payees and substitute payors/paymasters.
    We have perhaps the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the world. Indeed, in many applications, we allow minority plaintiffs/litigants to prevail by showing only that race was but one of several factors used to deny plaintiffs a benefit or impose an adverse action against them (and they also can allege “pretext” when defendants articulate other reasons).
    This is contrary to a general and basic causation standard in litigation, -requiring plaintiff to show that “but for” defendant’s conduct, plaintiff would not have suffered.
    Therefore, I would argue that our strong anti-discrimination laws (with appropriate burden on plaintiffs, as in all litigation) are all we need to promote access to higher education for all persons.

    1. Somehow I feel affirmative action and the thought of reparations will soon be history.

  9. I am brown.
    I do not want to be given special treatment based off the color of my skin.

    1. Rico, you may be right. The only votes to count on are Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch.

      Even if the Court decides against the universities, they will find a way around it, especially if there are any weasel words in the opinions of the Justices comprising the majority.

      DEI ideology is deeply embedded in the educational establishment and it will take more than one decision to root it it out. The best way may be what DeSantis has begun to do in Florida — disqualify from all Federal funding of any kind whatsoever, including research grants, any K-12 schools and any institutions of higher education that use racial diversity as a criterion for admission, hiring, retention or dismissal. Diversity simply is not a compelling state interest under the Constitution that can justify taking race into account in making decisions, and it is not mentioned in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a justification for discrimination. And the court has already held many times that remediation of general or statistical socioeconomic inequities is not a sufficient basis. So the Federal government should stop funding these unconstitutional and unlawful practices. That will get the educators’ attention.

  10. There is a not so fine line distinguishing affirmative action from affirmative discrimination. That said, diversity of individuals, minority of one. #HateLovesAbortion

  11. So we have the young man in the news who was a point or two shy of a perfect ACT score, and social justice says we don’t need people like him because he is Asian. The mere discussion of something so absurd, should be a national embarrassment.

    1. Jew… Asian privilege… baby… fetal-baby “burden”, there are precedents for Critical Diversity Theory (CDT).

  12. A good education is one of the opportunities in this nation that allows a hardworking, determined individual, no matter their socioeconomic status or background or ethnicity a chance to succeed.

    I imagine there are few people who do not recognize this beautiful gift. It has done much to elevate millions who would otherwise be stuck in a dreary existence.

    The problem occurs when a small number of people are gatekeepers to the immense funding that is allocated to educational institutions. Everyone deserves a shot and at no fault of their own, many public school students are cheated in their education by negligence. This is where the community college comes in. Here they have another chance to acquire sufficient skills to succeed in the larger institutions.

    This is not a black and white issue (pardon the pun). The university educators must have a certain level of discretion.

      1. No, Zero discrimination! The schools need a certain amount of discretion to allow a few non-traditional students to enter a graduate program who might not meet all the criteria for entrance. I am for strict entrance standards but there are those who might not have the pedigree to enter. Example, there might be a student with years of experience in a field of study but might not have a perfect score on their entrance exams, etc.

        I am for finding talented students who may have come out of a terrible school (because it is run by an incompetent administration or poor performing teachers). The student may not have the option to move to a better school but they have the raw talent and motivation to overcome such circumstances.

    1. If we’re being honest, the public k-12 system cannot produce the level of preparation to get into the Ivy League all on its own. The student’s family/home environment plays an equally crucial role:
      • proper pre-natal diet and the mother’s avoidance of alcohol and drugs
      • not exposing the child to a “sick home” (mildew, rodents, insects, lead paint and water pipes, radon)
      • protecting the child from trauma, violence and sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and setting negative expectations
      • the child’s diet and exercise
      • a father who instills ambition, courage, and exploration (strong agency) – missing fathers cannot be made up for
      • exposing the child to things that pique interests and develop love of learning
      • unconditional love and physical security given as an emotional foundation
      • keeping teen from wasting time on video games, social media banalities, and away from drug additions
      • conditioning the child to take increasing responsibility and plan ahead

      Grandparents play an important role as well. The fact is that the U.S. is NOT YET an equal-opportunity society from the standpoint of babies’ birthrights to the above list of family-based advantages. We could be, but it would require setting standards of readiness for parenting — and that would anger a segment of “pro-life” zealots who only care about getting the fetus born empty birthright).

      1. –Would you agree that many poor, disadvantaged, or neglected WHITE kids (often labeled as “white trash” “hillbilly” or “trailer trash”) have suffered the same -but WON’T receive special status/benefit– because they are white?

      2. A properly run school system can and does produce excellence even for kids who are set in less than favorable circumstances. The key is a caring motivated administration and dedicated teachers. Yes, a stable, two parent home is important, with rules and standards. But many children live in a dysfunctional home, even if the parents have means.

        Regarding Ivy League, I would place a dedicated state university student from a well run institution against a privileged Ivy League student and the results would be the same and in some cases better. Ivy League may give a student a ticket to the “boy’s club” but it does not necessarily assure a better student.


  13. I thought when we took Aunt Jemima off the pancake box all of our race problems were solved.

    1. “I thought when we took Aunt Jemima off the pancake box all of our race problems were solved.”

      Nah. For the Left, that doesn’t come until — well, never.

    2. @roger

      I thought the same thing when they removed the Confederate statues.

      Maybe Mount Rushmore needs to be removed? That might help.


    3. especially since her ancestors wanted her likeness to stay on the box because they liked the idea that she was immortalized. But the elite left crybullies wanted to virtue signal.

    1. 65% of this country never stepped foot on a college campus. So they have to pay for the other 35%?

  14. “. . . affirmative action in admissions.”

    If there is such a thing as “systemic racism,” that is it.

    1. There!

      He said it!

      The NAACP et al. are utterly racist organizations, as are the wholly unconstitutional policies and programs they force fools to swallow.

      They are racists.

      You are fools.

      “[We gave you] a [restricted-vote] republic, if you can keep it.”

      – Ben Franklin

      You couldn’t.

      What the —- do you imagine Olde Ben was talking about, anyway?

      Growing a pair, perhaps, repossessing your republic, kicking —, taking names and giving out one-way plane/ship tickets home?

  15. It’s fair to assume that the satisfaction of one’s admission to medical school far outweighs any consideration by the candidate as to which held sway…competence or complexion. Unfortunately, on the other side of the pendulum is the patient questioning the very same thing. Therein is the rub, where affirmative action is concerned, with respect to any endeavor.

  16. I thought that we – led by Martin Luther King – all came out against the use of race in determining the outcome of anything 55-60 years ago. Only racists keep beating this drum

  17. maybe you people don’t pay attention!

    Democrats dont do things to improve society, they want to STEAL!
    Look at a city like Camden, NJ democrat for 60 years….High Schools have 5% at Grade Level…and most of the 60% who “graduate?” are incompetent. And they SPEND billions on public unions who KICKBACK Millions for Politicians!

    End Federal Aid to colleges, cities and states….let Democrats pay for their failures!

  18. LOL…sure like Fascist Democrats care!
    Republicans JUST gave Trillions to Democrats…to build their Army!

    End all federal aid and loans to colleges! Democrats have and will ALWAYS be racists!

    Time to FIGHT BACK! Remove all Republicans leaders…and FIGHT!

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