A Parade cover story on affirmative action in late 1998 promoted a poll among readers. Now, Parade readers, and especially those who will take the time to call a 900 number, may not be a good cross-section of the U.S. population. Because some phone calls did not register, figures do not equal 100 percent. The following percentages are based on 20,704 responses.
The poll asked four questions, and the responses are given:
Should minorities be given preferences in college admissions? Yes: 9.8% No: 84.3%
Should state and local governments set aside contracts for minority-owned businesses? Yes: 11.2% No: 83.4%
Should government give preferential treatment in the employment of minorities and women? Yes: 9% No: 85.9%
Should preferences be given based only on economic need? Yes: 62.8% No: 26.9%
The racial composition of the respondents broke down as follows:
Fair Chance is an organization promoting affirmative action. It took issue with the wording of the questions in using the term “preferences.” It believed use of this word skewed the results.
Laurel Cochran of Phoenix is white and articulated a bit of the rationale favoring affirmative action:
There is no such thing as a level playing field and never was one. So why not skew a playing field that will serve the common good? Affirmative action is beneficial. Let’s mend it where it needs mending, not end it where it doesn’t.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Do you think a majority of Americans ever favored affirmative action? Why do so few now favor it?
What do you see as the main arguments for and against affirmative action?
Is it ever right to establish policies that favor a slighted group? When and why or why not?
Do you think South African whites, who clearly have had political, educational, and economic privileges for a long time, should be asked to make any sacrifices to advance the situation of blacks and coloreds (as they are called)?
What are some of your unearned privileges?
Where there has been social inequities, should there be, on the part of individuals and government, remedial expenditures of money? Of time? Of sacrifices of opportunities?
Ethnic and cultural divisions are one of the key issues in conflicts round the world.
Before there can be peace, there must be justice. And along with justice there must be forgiveness and reconciliation.
Social disadvantage and inequality exist, but it is very difficult to assess and rectify these matters.
Individual and social initiative for greater justice along with personal sacrifice of time and money are needed for healthy societies.