Poll: Voters Disagree With Sotomayor on Affirmative Action

David A. Patten, Newsmax, June 3, 2009

Voters disagree with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s controversial ruling in the New Haven firefighters’ reverse-discrimination case by more than three-to-one, a new poll shows.

Voters also strongly oppose using affirmative action programs to increase diversity, according to the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning.

“If you look at the data,” Quinnipiac Assistant Director Peter Brown tells Newsmax, “what’s most interesting is how large their objection is for diversity being a reason for affirmative action. The numbers are staggeringly negative.”

In an unusual survey of 3,100 voters–most national polls rely on about 1,200 respondents–voters by 71 to 19 percent think Sotomayor was wrong to permit New Haven to throw out the results of a promotional exam for firefighters, simply because no African-Americans scored well enough to qualify for promotion.

Asked if Sotomayor’s ruling, which has been appealed to the Supreme Court and may be overturned, would make them less likely to support Sotomayor’s confirmation, 28 percent said they would be less likely to support her. Fifty-nine percent said her ruling would make no difference in terms of their support.

The results indicate Sotomayor and President Obama could be seriously out of step with voters on the importance of hiring decisions blind to a person’s race or personal background, especially in the midst of a serious economic downturn when workers are competing for jobs.

By a 59 to 27 percent margin, even Democrats thought New Haven was wrong to disregard the results of the exam.

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Other findings of the survey:

# By 70 to 25 percent, voters oppose giving racial groups an advantage in getting government jobs in order to increase diversity. That is particularly significant, Brown says, because the justification for affirmative action programs has shifted from compensating for past racial discrimination toward promoting socially beneficial diversity.

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# Voters in every racial and religious demographic, by 74 to 21 percent, oppose using racial preferences to promote diversity in private sector jobs.

# Americans support affirmative action programs for the disabled, by a 55 to 39 percent margin.

# African-American voters support affirmative action, 49 to 45, while Hispanics oppose it by 58 to 38 percent.

# By a 59 to 30 percent margin, African-American voters support affirmative action for Hispanics. But Hispanics are split, by 47 to 48 percent.

“What is significant is that the public clearly opposes the idea that such programs are justified as a way of increasing diversity,” Brown says, “which has become the rationale in recent years as opposed to compensating for past discrimination which was the reason when they first began.”

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[Editor’s Note: Other stories dealing with the New Haven firefighters case are listed here.]

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