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Social & Policy Issues
Age Plays Key Role in Black Views of Affirmative Action Case
Social & Policy Issues

Age Plays Key Role in Black Views of Affirmative Action Case

Story Highlights

  • Most older Black adults view the court’s decision in firmly negative light
  • But younger Black Americans are more positive about the decision
  • Older Black adults also foresee problems, while younger adults are mixed

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the public has broadly positive views on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to end the use of race and ethnicity in admission decisions for most universities, Black Americans’ reactions are about evenly split, masking sharp generational differences.

The slight majority of Black adults, overall, consider the ruling “mostly a good thing” (52%), while 48% call it “mostly a bad thing.” However, Black adults aged 40 and older mostly view the decision negatively (56%), while a larger majority of younger Black adults, aged 18 to 39, view it positively (62%).


The generational gaps in Black adults' views on the court decision that was handed down in June 2023 are larger than generational differences among Hispanic and White adults. Separately, the study shows that the views of Black men and women do not differ to a statistically significant degree on most measures about the decision.

Generational Differences in Views on the Decision’s Impact

The Gallup Center on Black Voices survey, conducted Oct. 25-Nov. 9, 2023, also asked respondents about the effect the decision may have in four areas: on higher education, generally; on educational opportunities for Black or African Americans; on the ability of people of one’s own race/ethnicity to attend college; and on the diversity of college campuses.

Solid majorities of older Black adults have negative expectations for the decision across the four possible impacts reviewed in the survey. Younger Black adults, on the other hand, are about evenly divided over whether they think the ruling will have positive or negative ramifications and are slightly more likely than their Black elders to hold the view that the decision will have no impact.


Bottom Line

Before the Supreme Court’s June 29 ruling on race-based admissions, Black Americans had expressed ambivalence in Gallup polls about the use of race as a factor in college admissions. The latest research from the Gallup Center on Black Voices, which shows a divergence in views among older and younger Black adults, hints at important gaps in how such policies have been experienced and interpreted by different generations.

It’s possible that older Black adults, given their greater age and life experience, are more likely to have benefited from affirmative action programs themselves, or to know someone who has. Therefore, they may be more likely to value such programs and view their absence as the demise of diversity and educational opportunity for Black Americans. Younger Black adults may either not appreciate the benefits as much as their elders or could view race-based admissions as undermining perceptions of Black students’ abilities and achievements.

Younger Black adults have views on the issue that are closer to those of their peers from other racial or ethnic groups, and they are as likely to view the impacts of the ruling negatively as they are to view them positively -- while many don’t think the ruling will make a difference.

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