Aside from craving a great meat-and-three plate, my head has been back to feeling cranky about the pitfalls of issue polling. According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken shortly before the Supreme Court held that Harvard’s admission policies were unconstitutional, 57 percent said they thought “affirmative action programs in hiring, promoting and college admissions should be continued.” Then again, a poll conducted two months earlier found that 69 percent believed that “private colleges and universities should not be able to use race as a factor in admissions.” (The number went up to 74 percent if you asked about public universities.)
In 2021, Gallup found that 62 percent favored “affirmative action programs for racial minorities.” But this year, Pew found that “half of U.S. adults say they disapprove of selective colleges and universities taking prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds into account when making admissions decisions.”
Sure, you can come up with some logical through line that could square all of these answers—but be realistic: This is a data mess. And, as with my overall point about the frailty of issue polls versus candidate polls, there’s no “Election Day” to render a final judgment on the polls’ accuracy.
Or is there?