The Unpopularity of Racial Preferences in College Admissions: Liner Notes

In a busy week, I have yet another column up at The Federalist, “Why The Media Will Never Tell You 85 Percent Of Americans Oppose Race-Based College Admissions.”

The backstory here is mildly amusing. I had written about the Beto hangover as the result of a mini-rant I had circulated by email (knowing there might be interest at the Fed in dunking on Beto). Part of that column relied on the newly-released “Hidden Tribes” study, coverage of which was generating traffic, particularly at The Atlantic. I mostly wrote about the study’s findings on political correctness, with just a line or two on affirmative action.

But before it got published, Joy Pullman’s piece on the study ran, so my working assumption was that my column might not run. And Joy’s column also seemed to generate a lot of traffic. Accordingly, I pitched The Fed on a similar column focused on the study’s equally lopsided finding regarding racial preferences. Now both this column and the Beto column have run and there is a certain thematic consistency as a result.

What got left out for space? In retrospect, while I use the word “now” in a few places, I probably could have emphasized that race preferences in college admissions have become widely unpopular over the course of the past five years or so. You can tease that out if you construct a timeline of the additional polling Alice Lloyd cited at TWS. Accordingly, the questions I ask about why the policy is unpopular are a bit less rhetorical than some may think. That the policy is now unpopular with many liberals and members of minority groups suggests something more than the rise of white identity politics is at work here, but it’s not clear what has changed. But few are thinking about it because of the media bias at work here. (I’m still less enthused than some — and less enthused than I once was — in the typical media bias rant. But it is interesting in cases where the media seems out of step even with typical liberals.)

Also, since writing the column, Avik Roy cites a WSJ piece to point out the essential dishonesty of Harvard’s claim that it is simply looking at qualities like applicants’ personalities. In my column, I do try to get at the notion that those who do support these racial preferences would seemingly prefer to do so on grounds the Court has put off-limits. As a result, schools act dishonestly to circumvent the law, while the media acts dishonestly to avoid talking about the dishonesty of the schools.

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