- Nonwhites more likely than whites to say segregation is a serious problem
- Small majority says government should take action to reduce segregation
- Busing is the least favored proposal to reduce segregation in schools
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A majority of Americans say that racial segregation in U.S. public schools is a "very" (21%) or "moderately serious" (36%) problem. A slim majority of whites (52%) consider school segregation a serious problem, but the view is even more widespread among U.S. blacks (68%) and Hispanics (65%).
|Very/Moderately serious||Not too serious/Not a problem|
|July 15-31, 2019|
Democrats (75%) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (35%) to say that segregation in schools is serious, with the views of political independents falling about halfway in between.
These data come from a July 15-31, 2019 Gallup poll. The issue of racial segregation has been an ongoing challenge for U.S. schools since the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that the concept of "separate but equal" was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. The issue gained renewed prominence this year when Democratic presidential candidates sparred over ways to address the issue in the first set of candidate debates.
Though most Americans rate racial segregation in schools as a serious problem in the U.S. today, a majority (54%) believes that U.S. schools are less racially segregated than they were 20 years ago. The rest are divided between those who say that schools are more segregated today (23%) or that segregation hasn't changed over the past two decades (20%). Whether schools are, in fact, less segregated is a matter of debate in academic circles, with the answer largely dependent on what measure of segregation is used.
Small Majority Favors Government Action to Address Segregation
Americans are slightly more likely to say that the federal government should take additional steps to reduce racial segregation in U.S. schools (53%) than they are to say that the government should not take such steps (45%). However, this sparks a significant racial divide.
Less than half of U.S. whites (43%) say the government should act to address segregation, while more than three in four blacks (78%) and Hispanics (76%) say it should take action on the issue. Similarly, relatively few Republicans favor government intervention on the issue (27%), while most Democrats (73%) and a small majority of independents (54%) would like to see the federal government work to reduce segregation in schools.
|July 15-31, 2019|
Most Americans Favor Magnet Schools, While Busing Remains Unpopular
Gallup also asked Americans whether they favor or oppose each of four proposals to reduce segregation in U.S. schools.
Most popular among the proposals is the creation of magnet schools, which about four in five Americans (79%) favor. Americans also support policies to promote low-income housing in higher-income areas (66%) as well as redistricting school boundaries to diversify districts (60%).
Least popular among these proposals is what is commonly known as "busing," which means requiring school districts to bus a certain percentage of students to neighboring school districts in order to racially diversify schools. Forty-three percent of Americans favor busing, while 55% oppose it. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Gallup found consistent opposition to busing, based on a variety of questions on the issue.
|Creating more regional magnet schools that offer specialized courses or curriculum||79||18|
|Initiating policies to promote more low-income housing in suburbs and other higher-income areas||66||32|
|Redrawing school district boundaries to create more racially diverse school districts||60||38|
|Requiring school districts to bus a certain percentage of students to a neighboring school district to make schools more racially diverse||43||55|
|July 15-31, 2019|
Magnet schools enjoy majority support across all racial and political party identification groups as a proposal to reduce racial concentration in certain schools. Meanwhile, promoting more low-income housing in suburban or higher income districts and redrawing district boundaries as a means of integrating schools receive majority support among all of these groups except Republicans. Majorities of Republicans oppose both proposals.
Busing is the toughest sell, with low support among whites and Republicans as well as less than half of independents. Most blacks, Hispanics and Democrats support busing, but not to the same degree as they support the other three proposals.
|Magnet schools||Low-income housing||Redrawing district boundaries||Busing|
|% Favor||% Favor||% Favor||% Favor|
|July 15-31, 2019|
Segregated schools are a major issue in many U.S. communities, including in the South where a new report details the increasingly common creation of "splinter" school districts. These are new school districts created when school systems secede from larger districts and leave behind lower-income and predominantly nonwhite students. But segregation is common even in blue states like New York and California, where some of the most segregated school districts in the country can be found.
Policies around segregation produced the top highlight of one of the June presidential candidate debates after Sen. Kamala Harris chided former Vice President Joe Biden for his 1970s opposition to student busing. Biden's stance at the time was consistent with the solid majorities of Americans who opposed busing. And that strong opposition paved the way for the much less controversial creation of magnet schools, which were seen as an alternative to busing, and became popular in the 1980s with funding from President Ronald Reagan.
Over time, magnet schools have shifted from a focus on integration to one that is more about education competitiveness, and it is the top favored proposal on Gallup's list.