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Our Corner | What Americans Really Think About Affirmative Action

In a new column for Huffington Post Politics, PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox examines the divide between American support for the general principle of affirmative action and its application in college admissions. His insight is well-timed, as the Supreme Court is set to rule later this month on the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions. Cox explores PRRI’s latest findings as part of the spectrum of public opinion data on the issue:

With several different approaches on hand, it’s a good time to step back and review what the data tell us. Last month, PRRI unearthed a surprising divide between support for the general principle of affirmative action and its application in college admissions. We found that roughly two-thirds (68 percent) of the public supports programs that make “special efforts to help blacks and other minorities get ahead” in order to “make up for past discrimination.” Simultaneously, many of these same Americans (64 percent) oppose granting preferences to blacks and other minorities in college admissions.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey released Tuesday confirmed that Americans are generally opposed to affirmative action in college admissions. In that survey, more than three-quarters (76 percent) oppose “allowing universities to consider an applicant’s race as a factor in deciding which students to admit.” While this finding is largely consistent with our own, the somewhat higher opposition found in the ABC/Washington Post survey is likely the result of omitting the justification for such a policy — to make up for past inequalities. Regardless of question wording, the conclusion is the same: Americans are opposed to affirmative action in the context of college admissions.

Read the full column at Huffington Post Politics.

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