Posted on June 11, 2013

NBC News/WSJ poll: Affirmative Action Support at Historic Low

Domenico Montanaro, NBC News, June 8, 2013

As the Supreme Court prepares to once again weigh in on the issue of affirmative action, a record-low number of Americans support such programs, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Just 45 percent of respondents said they believe affirmative action programs are still needed to counteract the effects of discrimination against minorities, while an equal 45 percent feel the programs have gone too far and should be ended because they unfairly discriminate against whites.

(The poll was conducted May 30-June 2 and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.)

The number of Americans supporting affirmative action has been in decline over the past two decades, down from a high of 61 percent in its favor in 1991.

Reasons for the trend range from the idea of “diversity fatigue” to what others believe is the effect of an African-American being elected president, as well as 20 years of anti-affirmative-action campaigns.

“Right now, I feel like it’s reverse discrimination,” said one poll respondent, a white, 69-year-old retired teacher from Rhode Island, who was interviewed for this story and did not wish to be identified. “I did support it at first, but, gradually, because of this reverse discrimination it’s gone too far.”

By the fast-approaching end of its term, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision in a case determining whether the University of Texas admissions program violated the Constitution by using racial preferences. {snip}

Not surprisingly, there is a wide divide on the issue along racial lines. Among whites polled, almost six in 10 (56 percent) oppose affirmative action. But among minorities asked, eight in 10 blacks and six in 10 Hispanics favor it.

There is also an ideological split, with 67 percent of Democrats saying the programs are still needed, compared to 22 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Tea Party supporters. And just 39 percent of independents agree that affirmative action should be continued.