July 3, 2003Press Release

Americans Sharply Divided Over Supreme Court Affirmative Action Ruling: Employment Law Alliance Poll Shows 36% Favor Vote; 45% Give Thumbs Down

Apart from ruling, 58% say preference in admissions has been good for the country

Milwaukee, WI - Americans are as divided in their views over the landmark Supreme Court ruling on college affirmative action admissions programs as the court itself, according to the results of a comprehensive national survey commissioned by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA) conducted on the heels of the 5-4 decision.

As part of the continuing series of "America At Work" national polls, 1,000 adults were asked several questions about their opinion on the ruling as well as their personal views on affirmative action and American society. In the first of a two-part analysis of the poll findings, ELA today reported:

  • 36% believe the court's decision was a good one
  • 45% disapprove of the ruling
  • 20% either had no opinion one way or the other or did not express an opinion
  • Support for the ruling was strongest among persons in higher income brackets; college graduates; those with advanced college degrees; and residents of the Northeast, Midwest and Western states
  • Support was weakest among persons in lower income brackets; retirees; those with a high school education or less and those living in Southern states.
  • 58% believe affirmative action involving college admission for minorities and women has been good for society
  • 23% believe affirmative action involving college admissions has not been good for society
  • 20% had no opinion one way or the other or did not express an opinion on whether affirmative action preferences for minorities and women was good for society

Scott C. Beightol, Esq., CFO of the Employment Law Alliance and a partner in the Labor and Employment Law Practice Area of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, said the poll results are revealing on several different levels.

"While we see a nation deeply divided on the court ruling that dealt only with race-based preference, the majority of Americans generally favor the notion that college affirmative action programs benefiting women and minorities have been good for society," said Beightol.

"The poll results clearly demonstrate that Americans are significantly more comfortable with affirmative action programs on college campuses than with the court decree," added Beightol. "College administrators should feel positive about the overall attitude toward affirmative action but also recognize that they must continually focus on communicating to all their constituents ? including students, applicants, faculty and alumni -- the benefits of a diverse student body."

Thomas W. Fenner, Deputy General Counsel of Stanford University, agreed. "Our admissions process is designed to achieve the broadly-defined diversity endorsed by the Court," Fenner said. "But our task doesn't end there. Once the students arrive on campus, we need to facilitate the kinds of interactions among people from diverse backgrounds that yield the sought-after educational benefits."

The survey conducted by Reed, Haldy, McIntosh & Associates of Media, Pennsylvania, also looked at the attitudes of Americans toward affirmative action in the American workplace. Besides being asked their opinion of whether hiring preferences have been good for society, those polled were questioned about their personal experiences with affirmative action in the workplace. Those results and analysis will be released before the end of July.

About the Employment Law Alliance

The Employment Law Alliance is the world's largest integrated, global practice network comprised of premier, independent law firms distinguished for their practice in employment and labor law. There are member firms in every jurisdiction in the United States and major commercial centers throughout the world. For further information, including access to the survey charts and graphs, visit

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