Polling Shows Support For Affirmative Action

(IStockPhoto)
The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of white firefighters in the closely watched New Haven, Conn., case, finding that they were unfairly denied promotion.

With that in mind, we took a look at recent polling on the public's opinion about affirmation action, which shows that slightly more Americans favor than oppose affirmative action generally.

In this particular case, the group of white firefighters, the plaintiffs, believed they were discriminated against when the city of New Haven threw out the results of an exam because too few minorities scored high enough.

A CBS News/New York Times Poll, conducted June 12-16, found 50 percent in favor of programs that make special efforts to help minorities get ahead, with 41 percent opposed. For over a decade more Americans have favored affirmative action programs than opposed them.

PROGRAMS WHICH HELP MINORITIES GET AHEAD
Now 7/2008 2/2000 12/1997
Favor 50% 51% 59% 55%
Oppose 41% 42% 32% 39%

Six in ten Republicans oppose such programs, while 67 percent of Democrats favor them. Independents are divided, with 44 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.

However, there is broader support for programs that make special efforts to help people from low-income backgrounds get ahead, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Eight in 10 favor this, with just 15 percent opposed.

PROGRAMS WHICH HELP PEOPLE FROM LOW-INCOME BACKGROUNDS GET AHEAD
Now 7/2008
Favor 80% 83%
Oppose 15% 13%

Views on programs for low-income people are also less partisan. 71 percent of Republicans favor these programs, as do 81 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of independents.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, whose confirmation hearings begin July 13, was part of a panel of appellate court judges that ruled against the plaintiffs in the New Haven firefighters' case. If she is confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court most Americans don't think Judge Sotomayor will unfairly favor any particular group.

According to the CBS News/New York Times Poll, just 18 percent think she will favor certain groups over others when making judicial decisions. More than half think she will treat all groups the same if she is confirmed.

Three in four Democrats think Sotomayor will treat all groups equally, while Republicans are divided in their opinions.

WILL SOTOMAYOR FAVOR CERTAIN GROUPS OVER OTHERS WHEN MAKING DECISIONS?
All Rep Dem Ind
Yes, favor certain groups 18% 35% 6% 21%
No, treat all groups the same 55% 32% 76% 50%
Don't know 25% 28% 16% 27%

In the poll, conducted about two weeks ago, 34 percent think the Senate should confirm Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, with 9 percent opposed. However more than half, 53 percent, couldn't say. (Read more on the Sotomayor poll>)

The poll also found that most Americans hadn't heard enough to have an opinion of Sotomayor. Those who did have an opinion were more positive than negative: 33 percent view her favorably, and just 9 percent have an unfavorable view.

It isn't unusual for Americans to have no opinion about a Supreme Court nominee prior to their Senate hearings. In fact, Judge Sotomayor is more well-known than some other recent nominees.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR VS. PAST NOMINEES
6/2009
(Sotomayor)
11/2005
(Alito)
8/2005
(Roberts)
9/1991
(Thomas)
8/1990
(Souter)
7/1987
(Bork)
Favorable 33% 11% 25% 26% 13% 11%
Unfavorable 9% 7% 7% 10% 5% 12%
Undecided 22% 16% 17% 22% 13% 13%
Haven't Heard Enough 36% 65% 51% 42% 68% 63%



Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys. Jennifer De Pinto is manager of election and survey information for CBS News. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.
  • Sarah Dutton On Twitter»

    Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App