The majority of adults in the U.S. say that the U.S. Supreme Court should allow colleges to consider race as part of the admissions process, but few believe students’ race should be a major factor, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The poll – conducted in May with 1,680 adults – found that 63% of respondents do not want the court to block schools from factoring in race or ethnicity in admissions. 13% said they think race is very or an extremely important part of the admissions process. And 18% said it should be somewhat important.
As for matters of considering gender in admissions, 9% said it should be very important, 14% somewhat important, and 77% not very or not at all important.
And respondents were more likely to say factors including grades and standardized test scores should be important.
These findings indicate general support for affirmative action as the conservative-majority Supreme Court is expected to rule on the practice – and the lawsuits challenging it at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina – soon. Currently, the practice is banned in nine states, such as California, Michigan, and Florida.
Proponents of the practice say it strengthens racial diversity, offsets resource imbalances in U.S. public schools, and helps even the playing field amid institutional racism.
“It seems like it’s hard to get in if you don’t have that help, just because we’re not traditionally thought of as industrious or smart or hardworking,” said Layla Trombley, 47, who is biracial.
Many colleges say race is one of many factors that can be accounted for when determining admission, claiming that it is not a large influence but may sometimes give an edge to underrepresented students in close decisions.
“There’s a lot of kids that work really, really hard, and I don’t like the idea of them being pushed out of the way just because the college feels like they need to do something politically correct,” said Jana Winston, 50, who is half white and half Cherokee.