As the US Supreme Court rules on the future of affirmative action, most adults in the country believe the court should allow colleges to consider race in their admissions process, though few they believe it should be a determining factor, according to a new survey.
In The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research's May poll, 63 percent of respondents said the Supreme Court should not bar universities from assessing race or ethnicity in their admissions processes. There were few differences based on political leanings or race.
Instead, respondents were more likely to say factors such as grades and standardized test scores should be important, while 68% of adults said race and ethnicity should not be significant factors.
The poll reflects general support for affirmative action measures, despite the fact that the future of the practice is in doubt. The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on lawsuits against the admissions systems of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
With a conservative majority on the court, many college administrators are bracing for a decision that could lower or eliminate consideration of race in their selection mechanisms.
The American opinion on the subject, that race should be allowed to be valued, but only as a minor factor, is generally consistent with the practices of universities.
Many schools, especially the most selective ones, say that race is just one of many factors officials may consider when choosing which students are accepted. They point out that it is not a great influence, but sometimes it can give an advantage to students from underrepresented communities in very close decisions. Universities defend the practice as a way to bring a diverse group of students together on campus, noting that racial diversity benefits all students.
It is unknown how many universities value race in their selection processes, and the practice is banned in nine states, including California, Michigan and Florida.
Layla Trombley said it's a matter of fairness. White students had long had an advantage in admissions because of institutional racism, said Trombley, who is half-black. Affirmative action helps level the playing field, she noted.
13% of respondents said they believed race should be a very or extremely important part of the admissions process, according to the survey, and 18% said it should be somewhat important. Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to say that it should be, at the very least, very important.
The poll found similar views on gender. 9% of adults said it must be a very important factor, 14% somewhat important, and 77% not very important or not at all. Men and women held similar views on the issue.
By contrast, 62% of Americans believe high school grades should be very important, and 30% said they should be somewhat important. Almost half said that standardized tests should be very important.