Affirmative Action Polling

Majority Believes Affirmative Action Benefits All Students and Want the Supreme Court to Protect It

Insights from a national survey of Americans
September 26, 2022

Ahead of the start of the U.S. Supreme Court term and oral arguments for two cases challenging the Court’s long-standing support for affirmative action in higher education, NORC at the University of Chicago conducted a national survey exploring people’s opinions on affirmative action, diversity, and opportunity in higher education. The survey was commissioned by The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

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Strong majorities believe racially diverse campuses are beneficial for all students.

  • 87% of respondents believe all students, no matter their race or background, benefit from college campuses that reflect the diversity of who we are as Americans. The same percentage of White respondents (87%) agree.
  • 79% believe diversity contributes to a better education for all students, including 75% of White respondents.
  • 74% believe colleges and universities have the responsibility to create diverse student bodies.

People believe college admissions should look at the whole student, including their racial background, not just test scores.

  • 76% of respondents believe college admissions should take into consideration the lived experiences and the whole story of a student, in addition to high school grades and test scores. The same percentage of White respondents (76%) agree.
  • 74% agree that college admissions that look at the whole student, not just their test scores, help achieve racial equity in higher education. 69% of White respondents agree.
  • 70% of respondents agree we need racial diversity in addition to diversity of students’ economic backgrounds to achieve true equality. 75% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree.

People believe affirmative action helps address racial inequalities and promote equal opportunity.

  • Strong majorities (69%) believe affirmative action helps create diverse campuses, which benefit all of us.
  • 67% believe affirmative action promotes equal opportunities, including for those who did not have it in the past.
  • 64% of respondents believe affirmative action helps level the playing field and give all students, regardless of their race or background, a fair shot at attending college. 66% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 58% of White respondents agree.

Majorities want the Supreme Court to protect affirmative action.

  • 54% of respondents believe it is important that the Supreme Court protects affirmative action, including 32% who believe it is very important.
  • 57% believe taking away affirmative action would virtually shut out many talented and qualified students of color from getting into certain colleges and universities. 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree.
  • A majority (52%) believe that due to racial inequality, government action is necessary to level the playing field. 62% of 18- to 29-year-old respondents agree.


The nationwide poll was conducted September 9-12, 2022, using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago, on behalf of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,003 adults. The margin of error is +/- 3.97 percentage points.

About AmeriSpeak:

Funded and operated by NORC at the University of Chicago, AmeriSpeak is a probability-based panel designated to be representative of the U.S. household population. Randomly selected U.S. households are sampled using area probability and address-based sampling, with a known, non-zero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame. These sampled households are then contacted by U.S. mail, telephone, and field interviewers (face to face). The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Those excluded from the sample include people with P.O. box only addresses, some addresses not listed in the USPS Delivery Sequence File, and some newly constructed dwellings. While most AmeriSpeak households participate in surveys by web, non-internet households can participate in AmeriSpeak surveys by telephone. Households without conventional internet access but having web access via smartphones are allowed to participate in AmeriSpeak surveys by web. AmeriSpeak panelists participate in NORC studies or studies conducted by NORC on behalf of governmental agencies, academic researchers, and media and commercial organizations.


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