A new poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including minority groups, oppose the consideration of race in the admission of students to colleges and universities in the nation.
This follows a critical U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of higher education institutions to implement affirmative action programs. Diversity has long been a selling point for colleges and universities across the United States. Unsurprisingly, college and university leaders have largely supported the court ruling.
Nonetheless, the poll highlights a deep fault line between academic administrators and the broader American public.
— Inside Higher Ed (@insidehighered) July 8, 2016
The respected pollster Gallup, working with Inside Higher Ed, surveyed a cross section of Americans from 29 June to 2 July. Survey respondents were asked specifically about the Supreme Court decision: “The Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that confirms that colleges can consider the race or ethnicity of students when making decisions on who to admit to the college. Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision?”
65 percent disapproved, while 31 percent approved, reaffirming the results of similar polls in the past.
The rejection of affirmation action programs persists (albeit to varying degrees) even when respondents are sorted by ethnicity. In response to a separate question, 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 50 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, and 61 percent of Hispanics preferred if students were admitted to college solely on merit, as opposed to an approach that considers race/ethnicity.
The Supreme Court’s affirmative-action decisions crippled discussions of racial justice. Fisher might change that. https://t.co/6oyrzdPZ8v
— Vox (@voxdotcom) July 5, 2016
Affirmative action critics reacted positively to the poll results.
“Americans have been brought up to believe that it’s a bad thing to treat people differently because of their skin color or where their ancestors came from,” Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, told Inside Higher Ed.
“None of this is surprising.”
Nonetheless, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that at least some affirmative action programs are acceptable.
“Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority of the court, reported the New York Times.
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