Race has returned as a topic of discussion. We had Sotomayor's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, we had her role in a decision concerning promotion of firefighters, and of course the recent brief arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. What people know or think about race is, of course, heavily influenced by their own race or personal experiences.
There is no survey data out yet on the Gates arrest, but there are some good questions over time that attempt to tap what we think about affirmative action and other racial/ethnic issues. Pollingreport has this group of results that are interesting to skim. Scroll down to the NBC/Wall Street Journal results. The percentage of people who say affirmative action should be ended dropped in the latest survey, which I find kinda interesting. In 1995, 40 percent said it should be ended. It hit a high of 43 percent in 2003 but earlier this year it was down to 28 percent. That's a helluva drop, no doubt tied to the Sotomayor nomination.
Perhaps the Obama election led to a dramatic shift, but I thought the firefighter case might offset some of that. Apparently not. About one-third of Americans, according to a CNN poll, thought there should have been a new test, roughly the number seen among those who want an end to affirmative action. A shift has happened, and I suppose Obama's election may have played a major part. It'll be interesting to see the numbers in a year or so to see whether this is a statistical blip in what people think about race, or it's something more permanent.