A clear majority of Americans, 67 percent, are opposed to considering race and ethnicity in college admissions, instead saying that students should be admitted solely based on merit, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Researchers surveyed nearly 4,400 adults and found that 67 percent said an applicant should be admitted to a college only based on merit, even if that means there would be fewer minorities on campus. The percentage was the highest for the white population, with three-quarters of respondents favoring merit-based admissions policies.
The majority of Hispanics favored merit-based admissions policies, while a slight majority of black respondents – 48 percent – said they think an applicant's racial and ethnic background should be considered.
The survey came in the midst of the Supreme Court's ruling on a case brought forth by a white applicant who was denied admission to the flagship campus of the University of Texas system. The applicant, Abigail Fisher, alleged she was denied admission to the Austin campus due to the school's affirmative action admissions policy.
While the court did not strike down affirmative action at the university, it punted the case back to a lower court, saying the admissions policy needed to be more strictly scrutinized.
"The recent University of Texas case suggests the issue is far from settled," a report on the poll says.
Gallup has surveyed Americans about race in college admissions two other occasions: once in 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled against a policy at the University of Michigan that awarded minority applicants extra "points," and again in 2007, when the court struck down racial quotas in public K-12 schools.
Americans' views on affirmative action programs related to college admissions have remained relatively consistent over the years. In 2003 69 percent of respondents favored a merit-based approach. This figure was 70 percent in 2007.
Although most Americans oppose affirmative action policies in college admissions, the poll found that the majority still supports affirmative action in general. A question asking respondents if they favored "affirmative action programs for racial minorities" showed that 58 percent in total agreed.
A slight majority of whites, about three-quarters of blacks and more than two-thirds of Hispanic respondents favored affirmative action programs more generally.
"Americans are not averse to having the government take steps to help improve the conditions of minority groups in the United States, and in a broad sense express support for affirmative action programs," the report says.