Public Preferences Differ on Top SCOTUS Cases

By Gary Langer

Jun 12, 2013 12:01am
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Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

A majority is holding fast in support for gay marriage, and even more Americans say legally married gays should receive full federal benefits. But opinions shift on another social and legal issue, with three-quarters – including more than seven in 10 whites and nonwhites alike – opposed to consideration of applicants’ race in college admissions.

All three issues tested in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are before the U.S. Supreme Court, with potentially landmark rulings expected by month’s end.

See PDF with full results and tables here.

Attitudes on gay marriage extend the dramatic shift in recent years toward greater support for gay rights. On affirmative action, the results indicate continued resistance among many Americans to race-based preferences.

On the former, 57 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and 63 percent say the federal government should give the same benefits to legally married gays that it gives to other married couples. On the latter, just 22 percent support allowing universities to consider applicants’ race as a factor in deciding which students to admit; 76 percent are opposed.

Criticism of affirmative action – particularly the consideration of race in college admissions – has been as high or higher in previous polls. In a Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey in 2001, for instance, 87 percent said colleges should not be allowed to consider race as a factor in student admission decisions, vs. 76 percent in this poll.

Perhaps surprisingly, this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds little in the way of racial or ethnic differences on the question. Seventy-nine percent of whites oppose consideration of race in college admissions, as do 71 percent of nonwhites, including 78 percent of blacks and 68 percent of Hispanics. In the 2001 Gallup poll, opposition was similar to its level now among nonwhites, 74 percent, while higher among whites, 90 percent.

Even political liberals in this survey oppose the practice, by a 2-1 margin.

Other research has found varying views on efforts to assist disadvantaged groups in areas such as college admissions, hiring and promotions, depending on the nature of the effort. Previous ABC News polls, for example, have found greater support for programs that give assistance but not preference, or that are based on income rather than race.

Results on legalizing gay marriage are consistent with previous recent surveys, with far less support among conservatives, Republicans and older adults than among others. Still, federal benefits for legally married gay couples win more support in these groups, as well as overall. For example, while just 33 percent of Republicans support gay marriage, 42 percent support equal benefits for legally married gays. The shift is similar among conservatives.

On the other side of the spectrum, support for gay rights soars, as is customary, among young adults; three-quarters support gay marriage and equal benefits alike.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone June 5-9, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,007 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.

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