Majority of Asian Americans Support Race-Conscious Admissions Policies

In anticipation of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) and National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) have released policy papers examining Asian American support for race-conscious policies. [Editor: This is cross-posted from the AALDEF blog.]

Both papers cite multiple surveys of Asian Americans that consistently demonstrate that a majority of Asian Americans oppose abolishing race-conscious admissions policies. Furthermore, both papers identify fatal flaws underlying claims in one recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court that relied upon a survey of Asian Americans and race-conscious policies that dramatically departed from accepted methodological standards and yielded results at odds with the weight of available evidence.

“We support the current law that race can be one of many factors colleges consider to attain campus diversity,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which announced that it will be filing an amicus brief in Fisher, urging the Supreme Court to uphold UT-Austin’s race-conscious policies. “We believe the Asian American community continues to support policies that promote equal educational opportunity.”

The APAHE paper (download PDF) cites a Voter News Service/Los Angeles Times poll which found that a majority of Asian Americans demonstrated support for race-conscious admissions policies by rejecting Proposition 209 in California, a measure that prohibited public universities from considering race in admissions: “Polls by the Voter News Service/L.A. Times and the Field Institute reveal that among Asian American voters, support for Prop 209 was only in the range of 39% to 44%.” AALDEF’s exit polls also found that 75% of Asian American voters in Michigan rejected Michigan’s Proposal 2, a similar state referendum seeking to ban race-conscious policies.

The CARE paper (download PDF) presents results of a multi-city survey of Asian Americans by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, where 63.1% of Asian Americans indicated that affirmative action “is a good thing” as opposed to 5.7% who reported that it is a “bad thing” and 18.6% who reported that it “doesn’t affect Asian Americans.”

Given this data’s consistency, the APAHE paper finds “frankly impossible” the claim of political action group 80-20 National Education Foundation (80-20) that Asian American respondents oppose affirmative action by a ratio of 52:1. 80-20, which filed its own amicus brief opposing race-conscious policies in Fisher, bases these claims on a web survey it sponsored. Ethical and research flaws leading to the lopsided results – including 80-20’s political bias and “unethical practice” of publicizing the full name and race of all participants on its website — are detailed in both papers.

According to the Federal Judicial Center’s (the research and education agency for the federal courts) Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence cited in the APAHE paper, “self-selected pseudosurveys resemble reader polls published in magazines and do not meet standard criteria for legitimate surveys admissible in court.”

“As someone who has long championed and advocated for the rights of Asian Americans in higher education, I am deeply concerned about 80-20’s position on this issue,” said Dr. Bob Suzuki, President Emeritus of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. “Based on my experience in higher education for some 33 years, I know that race-conscious policies have provided greater equal opportunity for the vast majority of Asian Americans, not only for students, but also for faculty and staff. As the APAHE and CARE papers indicate, 80-20’s arguments are seriously flawed and must be challenged.”

Last week, the Pew Center issued a national report on Asian Americans which correspondingly found that the number of Asian Americans who believe they are discriminated against under the current admissions policies is extremely low. A majority of participants (61%) believed that being Asian has no impact in collegiate admissions, and most of the remainder (20%) believed that being Asian can be a helpful factor. Only 12% believed it hurts to be an Asian applicant.

“As with any complex issue, the diverse Asian American community has a wide range of opinions on the issue of race-conscious admissions policies. Both the APAHE and CARE papers provide clarity on the Asian American community amid much misinformation,” said Khin Mai Aung, director of AALDEF’s Educational Equity Program.

The APAHE paper was drafted by APAHE board member William Kidder, who is also the Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of California Riverside.

The CARE paper was authored by CARE Principal Investigator Robert T. Teranishi, who is an associate professor of higher education at New York University and author of Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education.