Between 1977 and 1989 Gallup asked Americans in four polls whether “women and minorities should be given preferential treatment in getting jobs and places in college” or if “ability, as determined by test scores, should be the main consideration.” Each time, Americans opposed race and sex preferences by an over 8-1 margin. The framing in Gallup led to lower support than in other surveys, but no matter how you ask the question, there is a long history of majority opposition to the pro-preference position. While most Americans may say they favor “affirmative action programs” in surveys where they’re not given any indication of what that means, support plummets as soon as you define affirmative action.
Unlike on other issues, where the public has moved left over the years, here we do not see much of a change. A 2014 Gallup poll asking about college admissions found 67% support for using only merit even if it meant “few minority students being admitted,” and 28% support for considering race. In March 2022, Pew found that only 7% of Americans thought race should be a major factor in college admissions, compared to 19% who thought it should be a minor factor, and 74% who said it should not be a factor at all. Support for sex preferences was even lower.
Given all this, why have conservatives not run on affirmative action? When I bring this question up to people, the standard response is that they’re afraid of being called racist.
But if the conservative politicians today are scared of Democrats calling them names, they sure don’t act like it. Doesn’t supporting Dobbs also anger the media? How about claiming fraud in the 2020 presidential election? Immigration tends to be a racially charged issue, and Republicans seem to have no problem talking about that. Same with Critical Race Theory. Read more…