Americans generally don’t want colleges to consider race when they elect students — polls suggesting Americans would stand behind the Supreme Court for ignoring affirmative action policies.
A YouGov questionnaire found that 54 percent of adults in the U.S. opposed colleges that consider race a factor in selecting candidates — even as part of efforts to increase campus diversity.
That far outweighs the 23 percent who wanted admissions teachers to use race to guide selections, and comparable numbers who were uncertain. Democrats were much more in favor of affirmative action policies than Republicans.
The Supreme Court is weighing the legality of race-conscious eligibility rules in cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) that jeopardize national affirmative action schemes.
Those programs have boosted the enrollment of black and Hispanic students, who have historically struggled to secure college positions, but at the expense of white and Asian-American candidates, critics say.
Affirmative action supporters gathered outside the US Supreme Court this week as judges heard arguments over race-conscious college admissions in Washington, D.C.
The case follows the controversial right-wing court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which activates state-level laws to restrict access to abortions and protests by pro-choice and women’s groups and others.
Conservative judges, who have a 6-3 majority in the chamber, expressed doubts about allowing race to qualify at all in college and university admissions decisions, saying such policies should not last forever.
“If the court overturns affirmative action protections, that would likely be a decision Americans would support,” YouGov said in a statement on the recent poll results.
When asked about the long-disputed issue, “most Americans say no,” he added.
In the survey of more than 1,000 American adults, nearly two-thirds of white Americans said they were against affirmative action. Black and Hispanic Americans were equally divided in three ways: for, against, and insecure.
When asked whether the different racial groups had equal opportunities in education, the respondents were less clear-cut. Nearly half said the current system was fair, about a third said it wasn’t.
The perpetual debate raged on social media on Wednesday, with commentators arguing that race-conscious college selection leveled the playing field for the marginalized, while others decried it as unfair.
“The elite college affirmative action focuses discrimination against Asian candidates and white candidates whose parents tend to vote Republican,” wrote Ross Douthat, a conservative analyst, blogger and author.
Health care entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy called affirmative action “a plaster” that “hides real problems: broken schools, unstable families and victim culture” that keep some blacks from succeeding in higher education.
The Supreme Court, which has twice blessed race-conscious college admissions programs on Monday, heard two cases involving UNC and Harvard, the nation’s oldest public and private universities, respectively.
It heard tense arguments lasting nearly five hours in appeals by a group founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum from lower court rulings upholding policies used by the two prestigious schools to promote student diversity.
Students for Fair Admissions, Blum’s group, said the UNC discriminates against white and Asian-American candidates and Harvard discriminates against Asian-American candidates. The schools disagree.
Many schools place great importance on reaching a diverse student population, not only to remedy racial inequality and exclusion in American life, but to bring an array of views to campuses.
Harvard and UNC say they use race as the sole factor in many custom assessments for quota-less admissions — allowed under court precedents — and that curtailing its consideration would lead to a significant drop in student enrollment from underrepresented groups.
Judgment will follow at the end of June.
Nine states already prohibit any consideration of race in admission to public colleges and universities: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.
In California, the same electorate that gave President Joe Biden a margin of 5 million votes over his predecessor Donald Trump in 2020 conveniently rejected a proposal to reinvigorate affirmative action.
Public opinion on the subject varies depending on how the question is asked. A 2021 Gallup poll found 62 percent of Americans support positive action programs for racial minorities.
But in a March Pew Research Center survey, 74 percent of Americans, including the majority of black and Latino respondents, said race and ethnicity should not play a role in college admissions.