Affirmative Action Maintains Voter Support in California

According to a new study, white, Latino, black and Asian-American voters in California are in support of affirmative action despite the continuing belief that the Asian population stands in opposition.

The survey asked 1,280 registered voters about their thoughts concerning affirmative action and its ability to help blacks, women, and other minority groups attain better jobs.

“From looking at the online petitions and other mobilizations, many observers have the sense that most Asian-Americans oppose affirmative action.  Opposition to affirmative action is still in the minority in Asian-American communities, and this holds true for not only the Asian-American community in general but also in the Chinese-American community, where we saw people who had the most issue (against SCA 5),” Karthick Ramakrishnan, survey director and UC Riverside professor, said.

Proposition 209, which put an end to affirmative action in public employment as well as in higher education, passed in 1996 with 55% of the vote.  State Constitutional Amendment 5 was introduced in 2012 in an effort to reinstate affirmative action in higher education.  Despite passing through the state senate earlier this year, the measure received a large quantity of backlash from Asian-American activists and was pulled before the Assembly could look over it.

However, results of the poll state otherwise.

Of the groups to participate in the study, the overall feeling was that preferential treatment should be given to women and minority groups, with 83% of black participants agreeing, 81% of Latinos, 69% of Asians, and 57% of whites.

Among Asian participants, 60% of Chinese respondents agreed with affirmative action.

S.B. Woo, president of the Asian political action committee 80-20, has said that although Ramakrishnan is wrong in his interpretation of the results, the actual survey was conducted correctly.

“Race-conscious college admission turned out to hurt rather than help Asian-Americans, blacks and Hispanics,” he said in an email. “Asian-American students had to give white college applicants 140 points in order to gain equal access to first-tier colleges. Black and Hispanic students were hurt by the academic mismatch phenomenon — needing to switch out of STEM or law majors. So the race-conscious admission is anti-affirmative.”

The results, say State Senator Ed Hernandez, show that what many people believe to be true, is.

“California voters broadly support equal opportunity programs that bring fairness back to employment, contracting and admissions policies,” he said in an email. “It appears to be a very vocal minority of Californians who oppose the idea of letting voters decide whether or not Prop 209 has hurt our state.”