Poll: U.S. Favors Affirmative Action

Black & white silhouettes of people, on red background, 6-2-95 AP

The Supreme Court will hear the University of Michigan affirmative action case April 1. The Administration has filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs, and the President has personally weighed in on the subject, calling the Michigan program one of quotas, and objecting to the use of such racial quotas in college admissions. Supporters of the University deny that the admission program is a quota system.

Americans favor programs that give a leg up to minorities, according to a A CBS News/N.Y. Times poll. Some 53% favor programs which make special efforts to help minorities get ahead in order to make up for past discrimination, and 39% oppose such efforts.

And when it comes to the concept of affirmative action, 54% think that affirmative action programs in hiring, promoting and college admissions should be continued, while 37% want them abolished.

Support for affirmative action has increased from five years ago. Back in 1997, 41% thought affirmative action programs should be continued and more -- 47% - thought such programs should be abolished.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS SHOULD BE:

Continued

All:
54%
Whites:
47
Blacks:
94
All (12/97):
41

Abolished

All:
37%
Whites:
42
Blacks:
3
All (12/97):
47

Not surprisingly, such programs earn more support among blacks than among whites. 72% of blacks (and 50% of whites) favor programs that compensate for past discrimination. A significant racial gap develops when the phrase "affirmative action" is used; 94% of blacks think that affirmative action programs should be continued, compared to 47% of whites.

The University of Michigan defends its admissions policies by pointing to its commitment to having a diverse student body. That is a goal most Americans agree with; 79% think it is important for a college to have a racially diverse student body. 19% think that is not an important goal.

89% of blacks and 78% of whites agree that diversity among college students is important.




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 997 adults, interviewed by telephone January 19-22, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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