New poll reveals a generational divide among Black Americans on overturning affirmative action in higher education

While a majority of Americans of all races see the end of affirmative action as “mostly a good thing,” there is a generational split among Black adults over the impact on higher education and their racial group, according to a new Gallup Center on Black Voices report.

Black adults’ views on last year’s Supreme Court ruling that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis in granting admissions are split, the survey found, with 56% of those 40 and older viewing the decision negatively and 62% of younger adults viewing it positively.

The findings released Tuesday were based on a Gallup Panel survey with a sample of 12,443 adults living in the United States. The survey was conducted online between October 25 and November 9.

When asked about the ruling’s impact, about half of Black adults said the ruling will mostly or slightly have a negative impact on higher education across the country, 17% said it will have no impact and 33% said it will have a slightly or mostly positive impact, the survey found.

But similar shares of Asian, Hispanic and White adults – nearly 50% – said the ruling will have a slightly or mostly positive impact, Gallup found.

The share of respondents who said the ruling will make it harder for prospective students of their own race to attend college was larger among Black adults (52%) than the other race or ethnic groups included in the survey.

About a third of Hispanic adults, 23% of Asian adults and 9% of White adults said it will be much or slightly harder for applicants of their race or ethnic group to attend college, according to the survey. About a third of respondents in each of the groups said it will be easier, and about half of Asian and over half of White adults said it will have no impact, the survey found.

More respondents across all racial and ethnic groups said the ruling will result in less diverse college campuses. About 49% of Black adults and 57% of Asian adults said that would be the case, according to the survey.

Tye Compton, a 22-year-old political science major at Howard University is among the young adults who believes the Supreme Court ruling will make college campuses less diverse.

“There will be less students of color applying for more competitive programs and there could be less opportunities for underserved students in receiving support,” he said, referring to scholarships, grants, fellowships earmarked for diversifying the student body.

Compton said he thinks the decision to overturn affirmative action in higher education “was flawed and has severely undermined the significance of diversity within our higher education institutions.

Fatimah Gilliam, CEO and founder of the consulting firm Azara Group, described how California’s decision to gut affirmative action in the late 1990s impacted her own decisions to go to college.

Gilliam said she was accepted into the University of California Berkeley’s law school but chose not attend because she felt it would be emotionally draining as one of the few Black students on campus.

“I went to Columbia Law School – a more expensive school where I took out significant student loans – when I had a financially cheaper option that was more expensive mentally,” Gilliam, who is also author of ‘Race Rules: What Your Black Friend Won’t Tell You,’ said.

“I opted not to go to what I deemed would be a lonely, isolating, possibly hostile, and not inclusive but exclusionary environment where I would be tokenized and expected to represent the voice of all Black people. I wasn’t signing up for that emotional labor on top of the rigor of law school.”

Camille Lloyd, director for the Gallup Center on Black Voices, told CNN that many Americans, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, think admissions should be based on merit rather than race. But, Lloyd said, at the same time, they don’t see the end of affirmative action as having a positive impact on people like them.

“I do think that people are more likely to say that there are negative impacts that will likely occur as a result of this, regardless of how they feel in terms of whether the decision itself is mostly good or mostly bad,” Lloyd told CNN.

That perception seems likely to impact the decisions of prospective students, Lloyd said.

A snapshot of the latest Lumina Foundation-Gallup State of Higher Education study released on Tuesday found that the ruling could be impacting the college applications of non-college graduates ages 18 to 59.

Among 1,378 respondents who said they have considered pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the past two years, half of the 208 respondents who identified as Black said the ruling on affirmative action will impact “a great deal” or a “fair amount” which colleges they might apply to.

“It’s not surprising, unfortunately, but disheartening to hear that this is going to impact (where they apply to college),” said Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact and planning for the Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to increase participation in education beyond high school. “We need to make sure we’re actually doing something with the results.”

Brown told CNN Black students’ enrollment has declined in the past decade and it’s concerning that the Supreme Court ruling may become another challenge for them.

“Black students face more barriers, they have more responsibilities and so they already have all of these things piled on them and this is another burden they may be carrying,” Brown said.

“This decision is going to impact them more because they feel like their universities may not be as diverse that they won’t feel as welcome and unfortunately, my fear is that they’ll be less likely to enroll and we’ll see these numbers continue to decline in the future,” Brown added.

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