Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fudging the Numbers on Race-Based Admits?

As many of us know, there was a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week about affirmative action in universities, essentially upholding a Michigan law that bans attempts to diversity campuses by race.I'm not getting into the for it or against it argument. Instead, this quote in a The New York Times article caught my eye:
“I think this issue is largely settled,” said Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute. “Most Americans have made up their minds that the government should not treat people differently based on race, and they’re kind of impatient that we continue to wrestle with the question.”
Whenever a partisan hack sums up public opinion, I wonder whether the person is right or just blowing smoke out their ass. So, what do people think? Luckily, Pew released a survey recently on just this topic. See the graphic below.

The poll above suggests smoke is being blown out of said ass. But not so fast, my friends. Note the wording. Is affirmative action a "good thing?" Well, yeah. Sounds good to me. But what about race specifically? This survey for ABC asked respondents:
Overall do you support or oppose allowing universities to consider applicants' race as a factor in deciding which students to admit?
The result? Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults oppose race as a factor (62 percent do so "strongly") and only 22 percent support it (and only 8 percent "strongly").

Our lesson here? When it comes to surveys, it all depends on how you ask the question, but in this case the guy quoted in the article seems to be right in summarizing the public's thoughts on the issue.


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