In October, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases challenging race-based admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The plaintiffs, Students for Fair Admissions, argue in part that affirmative action discriminates against Asian applicants.

In November, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,250 Asian Americans to understand how they feel about affirmative action.

Key findings:

  • 49% of Asian Americans oppose affirmative action
  • 53% support the Supreme Court banning affirmative action; 26% oppose
  • 39% say affirmative action is a racist policy, and this is the top reason Asian Americans oppose affirmative action
  • 7 in 10 say affirmative action impacts the way they vote
  • 58% of Midterm voters who voted for a Republican candidate for senator or representative in congress did so for the first time

Half of Asian Americans support Supreme Court banning affirmative action

The plurality (33%) of Asian Americans ‘strongly oppose’ colleges and universities considering a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. Additionally, 16% ‘somewhat oppose.’ On the other hand, 13% ‘strongly support’ and 21% ‘somewhat support’ affirmative action.

Older Asian Americans are most opposed to affirmative action, as 61% of Asians 54+ say they either somewhat or strongly oppose affirmative action as well as 55% of 45-54 year olds.

When it comes to younger generations, 45% of 18-24 year olds, 45% of 24-34 year olds, and 47% of 34-44 year olds oppose affirmative action.

More than half of Asian Americans (53%) support the Supreme Court banning colleges and universities from considering a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. On the other hand, 26% are in opposition, while 22% neither support or oppose the ban.

Additionally, the majority (54%) of Asian Americans say race should have no role at all in college admission decisions; 30% say it should have a minor role, while only 15% say that race should have a major role.

Dennis Consorte, a small business consultant, questions whether race should be a factor in hiring or college admissions.

“As a GenX product of the Vietnam War, I’m sensitive to issues that affect Asian people like me,” says Consorte. “Several years ago, when I first heard the news about Harvard admission standards favoring people of color to the exclusion of Asians, I recommended to my niece and nephews that they check off ‘other’ instead of ‘Asian’ on their college applications.

“In reality, the SCOTUS decision regarding Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may have one result on paper, and another in practice. I expect both positive and negative outcomes as consequences of the legislation.”

8 in 10 opposers say affirmative action is racist

Supporters and detractors of affirmative action offer reasons for their position on the issue.

The top reasons Asian Americans oppose affirmative action is they feel it’s a racist policy (81%), it increases racism toward Asian Americans (32%), it hurts their chances of getting into preferred schools (30%), and it furthers stereotypes about Asian Americans (25%).

“The debate is over whether equity, rather than equality, is the best way to give historically marginalized groups better access to opportunities like higher education,” says Consorte.

“Of course, there is a difference between choosing a student or job applicant of color over an Asian or White job applicant when they are equally qualified, and choosing someone solely based on their ethnicity. In the reverse scenario, it would be recognized immediately as racist. Supporters of affirmative action often say that it is not racist because you are favoring the group that is less powerful. The same can be said for favoring women candidates over men. While most can understand the logic, many would disagree with that notion, and instead suggest that all forms of discrimination are wrong, particularly when enforced through legislation and government funding.”

On the other hand, supporters of affirmative action say it helps ensure equal access to opportunities (64%), it addresses racial inequality (58%), diversity benefits students of all races (57%), and it leads to more diverse leadership (38%).

Educational consultant Blanca Villagomez, encourages open dialogue around this controversial topic.

“Evidently, the data shows there are strong emotions tied to both sides of the spectrum on affirmative action,” says Villagomez.

“This reality poses critical implications that will shape the landscape of higher education, transform student experiences, and impact diversity across campuses. As an educator who works with a diverse student body, I recommend colleges and universities create and facilitate dialogue spaces for communities to unpack, process, and gain clarity on what affirmative actions means. It’s critical for communities to fully understand the implications of affirmative action.”

7 in 10 say affirmative action impacts their vote

Overall, 72% of Asian Americans say the issue of affirmative action impacts the candidate they vote for ‘a great deal’ (26%) or ‘somewhat’ (46%).

Forty-five percent of Asian Americans say the issue of affirmative action motivated them to vote  in the 2022 midterms.

Republicans tend to think less favorably of affirmative action than Democrats. Of the 63% of Asian Americans who actually went out the polls and voted in the 2022 midterm elections, 40% say they voted for a Republican senator, and 49% say they voted for a Republican congressional candidate.

Of those who voted Republican, 58% said they had not voted for a Republican senator or congressional candidate previously.

As of today, 34% say they’re likely to vote for a Republican presidential candidate and 47% a democratic candidate; 19% don’t believe they’ll vote for either.

“Many people view life through the lens of scarcity,” says Consorte. “They believe that in order for one group to do well, another must lose. A better way to solve this problem is to apply an abundance mindset. The real question is not how can one racial group do better than another, but how can we create an environment where everyone has an opportunity to do well.”

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 Asian Americans were surveyed.

This survey was conducted on November 9, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email [email protected]