Commentary Magazine


Why It Requires Discussion

A timely poll by Quinnipiac reveals the following:

American voters say 55 – 36 percent that affirmative action should be abolished, and disagree 71 – 19 percent with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayer’s ruling in the New Haven firefighters’ case, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

More than 70 percent of voters say diversity is not a good enough reason to give minorities preferential treatment in competition for government or private sector jobs, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey of more than 3,000 voters finds.

Looking at specifics of affirmative action, American voters:

Support 55 – 39 percent affirmative action for the disabled in hiring, promotions and college admissions. Protestants and Catholics support it, 49 – 46 percent and 49 – 47 percent, respectively. Jews also support it 59 – 25 percent;

Oppose 70 – 25 percent giving some racial groups preference for government jobs to increase diversity. Black voters support it 49 – 45 percent while Hispanic voters are opposed 58 – 38 percent;

Oppose 74 – 21 percent giving some racial groups preference for private sector jobs to increase diversity. Voters in every racial and religious group oppose this;

Oppose 64 – 29 percent affirmative action for Hispanics in hiring, promotion and college entry. Black voters support it 59 – 30 percent while Hispanics split 47 – 48 percent;

Oppose 61 – 33 percent affirmative action for blacks in hiring, promotion and college entry. Black voters support this 69 – 26 percent, as do Hispanics 51 – 46 percent;
Oppose 62 – 32 percent affirmative action for white women in hiring, promotion and college entry. Women oppose this 58 – 35 percent but blacks support it 55 – 37 percent.

The poll director sums up: “Whether it’s a belief that the statute of limitations on past wrongs has run out or economic pressures on workers, programs that supporters call affirmative action and opponents label racial preferences are unpopular with most American voters.”

We are about to learn of the Supreme Court’s decision in the New Haven firefighter case and in the Voting Rights Act cases. We will have the confirmation hearing for Sotomayor this summer. In each of these the public will hear arguments about quotas, preferences, historical discrimination, preferential treatment, and multiculturalism. Conservatives who extol the concept of individual, as opposed to group, rights and who eschew the practice of divvying up by race, are on firm constitutional footing. This poll confirms that they also are speaking for the overwhelming number of Americans who think it is time to get beyond identity politics and racial preferences.