Gallup poll shows discrepancy between higher ed and the public’s view on affirmative action

"The ruling, which the public views favorably and aligns with prior views on using race as a factor in college admissions, is now settled law," wrote Justin McCarthy, an analyst at Gallup.

Nearly 70% of Americans believe that the Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action over the summer was “mostly a good thing,” according to a new survey by Gallup, an American analytics and advisory company.

Broken by race and ethnicity, over half of all races/ethnicities took this notion. White (72%) and Hispanic (68%) pollers shared the strongest sentiment against affirmative action. Black adults, on the other hand, were more conflicted. Only 52% said the Supreme Court’s decision was justified, and they were evenly split on whether it was a good thing for higher education as a whole.

For anyone following Gallup closely, these results may not surprise you. Their previous polling showed that Americans are highly supportive of merit-based scholarships and less interested in those that take into account students’ racial or ethnic backgrounds.

“The ruling, which the public views favorably and aligns with prior views on using race as a factor in college admissions, is now settled law. As the first cohort of students to apply to a post-affirmative action higher education system, the ruling has altered the calculus of those currently considering pursuing a degree,” wrote Justin McCarthy, an analyst at Gallup.

As middling as Black pollers’ responses were, they didn’t come close to the resolve higher education administrators demonstrated after the summer ruling. An October survey revealed that 79% were opposed to affirmative action, and 73% of respondents said it would lead to at least a moderate impact. Administrators stated their top concerns were how the decision would make it more challenging to recruit and retain a diverse student body, resolve legal issues and attract the best candidates.

While the everyday American may be more optimistic about the end of affirmative action, the two surveys point to similarities they share with college administrators. For example, 45% of admissions leaders were concerned about how it would limit diversity, which is on point with the approximate 45% average among Asian, Black, Hispanic and white pollers who believed campuses would be either slightly or much less diverse.

“Although the ruling receives fairly broad public support, predictions about the specific impact of the decision draw mixed responses across racial lines, underlining the uncertainty experienced by universities and students alike as they prepare for the next school year,” McCarthy writes.

Looking at what lies ahead, some college leaders believe that affirmative action made institutions complacent in attracting diverse student bodies. Institutions are leveraging new holistic frameworks to ensure they maintain enrollment of their Black and Brown students, such as through contextualization and perhaps AI technology.

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Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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