Poll: Strong Majority, Regardless of Party, Ideology, Oppose Affirmative Action

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of an affirmative action program at The University of Texas at Austin, two new polls show low public support for affirmative action, even among liberals and Democrats.

Seventy-six percent of registered voters oppose allowing universities to consider an applicant's race in their admissions process, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked a broader question: "Is affirmative action still needed, or should it be ended?" Forty-five percent answered that it should be ended, an all-time high since the same pollster began asking the question in 1991.

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In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, political party and ideology only made small differences in the results. Republicans were the least supportive of race-based admissions at only 12 percent. Support remained low for Democrats, at 28 percent, and independents, at 21 percent.

Even among liberals, who were the most supportive, only one in three, 32 percent, supported race-based admissions. Sixteen percent of moderates and 18 percent of conservatives were supportive.

There were also only small differences based upon race. Twenty percent of whites and 19 percent of blacks supported race-based admissions while Hispanics were the most supportive at 29 percent.

There was no difference between males and females on the question and age differences were within the margin of error. On education, those with some college but no degree were the least supportive, at 15 percent, and those with a post-graduate degree were the most supportive at 28 percent. The more libertarian-minded West was the region with the lowest support, at 15 percent, whereas in the rest of the nation support ranged between 22 and 24 percent.

The Supreme Court's decision on race-based admissions is expected sometime before the end of the month. In the case, Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, Abigail Fisher sued the university after she was denied admission. Her lawyers argue that she was denied equal protection under the law because should would have gained admission if she were not white.

Court watchers expect the court to rule against the university, but it is less clear whether the judges will issue a broad ruling that applies to all universities or a narrow one that only applies to The University of Texas at Austin.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted June 5-9 and had a sample of 1,000 adults. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted May 30-June 2 and had a sample of 1,000 adults. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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