Gallup Poll Shows Most Americans Oppose Affirmative Action in College Admissions

July 26, 2013

A recent survey showed that most Americans oppose the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions, and instead believe that college applicants should be evaluated solely on merit. According to a Gallup poll taken in June-July 2013, 67 percent of U.S. adults said that they believed college applicants should be admitted on merit only, even if doing so compromised campus diversity.

This perspective varied by race, with 75 percent of whites stating that the college admissions process should not consider race and 59 percent of Hispanics indicating the same. Blacks were more divided on the issue, with 44 percent believing that applicants should be judged solely on merit versus 48 percent who believed that race and ethnicity should be considered. Percentages also varied within other specific subgroups. For example, 87 percent of Republicans prefer race-neutral admissions decisions, compared to 53 percent of Democrats. Data was based on responses from 4,373 adults who were interviewed by telephone between June 13 and July 5, reported UPI.

U.S. News & World Report noted that the Gallup survey came in the midst of a recent affirmative action ruling for a case in which a white applicant alleged that she had been denied admission to the flagship campus of the University of Texas due to the institution's affirmative action policy. According to NBCNews.com, last month, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court for review and directed the appeals court to apply "strict scrutiny." In other words, this means that courts must review race-conscious admissions policies with high skepticism.

Gallup noted that over the past decade, opinions on using race in college admissions have not changed much. Gallup conducted a similar survey back in 2003, just before an affirmative action case against the University of Michigan, and again in 2007. As reported by U.S. News & World Report, 69 percent of respondents opposed the use of affirmative action policies in college admissions in 2003. In 2007 the figure was 70 percent.

Interestingly, however, the Gallup poll also showed that although Americans were reluctant to support the consideration of race in college admissions, they did support affirmative action programs on a more general, broad basis. When asked, "Do you generally favor or oppose affirmative action programs for racial minorities?" 58 percent of Americans reported being in favor. Gallup noted, however, that the difference in opinions may be a result of the way they phrased part of question about affirmative action in college admissions, as the question highlighted a potential negative outcome ("…[A]n applicant's racial and ethnic background should be considered to help promote diversity on college campuses, even if that means admitting some minority students who otherwise would not be admitted?").

Gallup seemed to suggest that the debate over affirmation action is far from over and that more cases similar to the recent University of Texas case may arise.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"In U.S., Most Reject Considering Race in College Admissions," gallup.com, July 24, 2013, Jeffrey M. Jones

"Majority of Americans Oppose Affirmative Action in College Admissions," usnews.com, July 24, 2013, Allie Bidwell

"Poll: Most Americans support affirmative action," upi.com, July 25, 2013

"Supreme Court raises bar for affirmative action in college admissions," usnews.nbcnews.com, June 24, 2013, Pete Williams and Erin McClam

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