Legitimacy Restored: Supreme Court Ends Affirmative Action, Outcome Backed by Vast Majority of Americans

Even most Democrats think race shouldn't be a factor in college admissions

June 29, 2023

What happened: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that universities can no longer use the controversial practice of race-based affirmative action as part of their admissions processes.

• The 6-3 opinion argued that race-based admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because they "unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points."

Why it matters: Some have argued the Supreme Court faces a "crisis of legitimacy" because its opinions do not always reflect the views of the American public. By this standard, the Court's decision to strike down race-based affirmative action is laudably legitimate.

• The vast majority of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, oppose race-based affirmative action in university admissions, polls show.

By the numbers: More than two-thirds of Americans say colleges and universities should not use race as a factor in admission, according to the New York Times. Opposition to affirmative action is slightly higher when respondents are asked about public universities funded by taxpayers.

• Americans oppose affirmative action at public colleges and universities by an overwhelming margin of 74 percent to 26 percent.

• A solid majority of Democrats agree: Sixty percent said they oppose race-based admissions at public universities, while 58 percent said the same about private universities.

What they're saying: "The opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court's own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion.

• Alas, the American public appears to have a different definition of "equality."

Bottom line: The Supreme Court's legitimate decision to end race-based affirmative action is an accurate reflection of the American public's views. Congratulations!