What role do Americans think race should play in college admissions?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
June 21, 2023, 7:34 PM GMT+0

As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on a series of cases involving affirmative action, new polling by the Economist/YouGov explores how Americans feel about the role of race in college admissions. The poll finds that considering race at all in the admissions process is viewed as unacceptable by 65% of Americans, while 25% say race should be allowed to be considered among other factors. About half of Democrats (48%) and Black Americans (47%) reject allowing colleges to consider race in admissions decisions.

Most Americans (59%) think that the Supreme Court is very or somewhat likely to decide against affirmative action in college admissions, including majorities of white (61%) and Black (57%) Americans.

Americans are divided on another approach toward equalizing educational opportunities by race: 51% say state universities should be required to automatically accept all applicants in the top 10% of their high school class, while 49% say state universities should not be required to accept any applicant, instead evaluating each applicant individually. Majorities of Democrats (56%) and Black Americans (63%) support the top 10% acceptance approach.

About half of Americans (51%) believe there is equal opportunity for education in the U.S., regardless of a person's race; 41% disagree. Most Black Americans (56%) say there is not equal opportunity, while just 37% of white Americans agree; 55% say there is. Republicans (74%) are about twice as likely as Democrats (38%) to believe there is equal educational opportunity regardless of race.

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on June 17 - 20, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (Delphotostock)