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In Affirmative Action Debate, Half Disapprove of Using Race and … – Pew Research Center

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Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans’ views of colleges and universities weighing applicants’ racial and ethnic backgrounds in admissions decisions as a way to increase racial and ethnic diversity. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,079 adults from March 27 to April 2, 2023. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.
Ahead of a closely watched Supreme Court decision that may significantly affect the admissions practices of some of the nation’s top colleges, half of U.S. adults say they disapprove of selective colleges and universities taking prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds into account when making admissions decisions. Fewer (33%) approve of colleges considering race and ethnicity to increase diversity at the schools, while 16% are not sure.
With the court nearing the end of its term and decisions in two related cases involving the private Harvard College and the public University of North Carolina expected to be issued in the next several weeks, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans are nearly three times as likely to say they strongly disapprove of colleges doing this (29%) as they are to say they strongly approve (11%).
About three-quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (74%) say they disapprove of these practices, including 48% who strongly disapprove. Just 14% of Republicans approve of colleges considering students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds when making admissions decisions.
By contrast, a narrow majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (54%) approve of colleges doing this, with 19% approving strongly. Around three-in-ten Democrats (29%) disapprove of the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions.
Nearly half of Black Americans (47%) say they approve of colleges and universities considering prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds when making admissions decisions, compared with 29% who disapprove (24% are not sure).
Among Hispanic Americans, identical shares approve and disapprove of these practices (39% each). Both White and Asian Americans are more likely to disapprove of colleges doing this (57% of White adults and 52% of Asian adults) than to approve (29% and 37%, respectively).
For more on Asian American attitudes: “Asian Americans Hold Mixed Views of Affirmative Action
The survey – conducted from March 27 to April 2, 2023, among 5,079 members of the Center’s American Trends Panel – finds that Americans are more than twice as likely to say that the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions makes the overall admissions process less fair (49%) rather than more fair (20%); 17% say this does not affect the process.
While nearly four-in-ten say that students accepted to colleges that engage in these practices are neither more nor less qualified than they would be otherwise, a third say the students are less qualified. Just 11% say that students accepted to these schools are more qualified than they would be if no consideration were given to prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Opinion is more closely divided on whether students’ educational experiences are better or worse at schools that consider the race and ethnicity of applicants, with nearly identical shares saying that students’ experiences are better (27%) and worse (26%).
The public is slightly more likely to say that colleges and universities doing this is good (36%) rather than bad (31%) for ensuring equal opportunity for Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
College graduates hold more favorable attitudes about the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions.
There are large differences between White and Hispanic Republicans in views about race and ethnicity as a factor in college admissions.
Most who support considering race and ethnicity in admissions say it is good for equal opportunity, while most opponents say it makes the admissions process less fair.
Black Americans are more likely than those in other groups to report personal experiences with efforts to increase diversity.
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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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