Over the past half-century, the United States has made remarkable progress in addressing legal segregation and discrimination, in increasing access to economic and educational opportunities for all, and in boosting participation of historically underrepresented groups in our political process, including, most notably, as President of the United States. Yet significant barriers to equal opportunity persist, and a well-orchestrated attack on affirmative action programs over the past 30 years has succeeded in sowing confusion about what affirmative action is and why its continuation is necessary to the achievement of justice and equal opportunity in America.
The Fisher v. University of Texas case goes before the Supreme Court this fall, and presents a constitutional challenge to the university’s college admissions policies. In order to foster a diverse student body and overcome obstacles to educational opportunity, the university considers qualified students’ racial or ethnic backgrounds along with academic achievement and other qualities like leadership, socioeconomic status, and athletic or artistic talent. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether that policy violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court will hear arguments in Fisher on October 10, 2012, and will issue a decision by the summer of 2013.
In the Spring of 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Opportunity Agenda, and a cohort of civil rights organizations embarked on a communications research and movement building project in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearing on the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case. At the time there was an expressed need to know what public opinion research – survey research, message testing, and focus group research – currently exists on affirmative action, and to identify any gaps in research, as well as directions for new research, in order to lay the foundation for a collaborative communications strategy, grounded in research, in anticipation of the Fisher case.
The Opportunity Agenda produced two resources in response to coalition needs:
1. Fisher v. University of Texas Pre-Argument Message Memo, offering messaging advice for promoting diversity and equal opportunity in the context of the case. This communications advice is intended to help mobilize supporters of diversity and equal opportunity while persuading undecided audiences. It is based on opinion and media research as well as practical experience from around the country.
2. “Affirmative Action: An Overview of Public Opinion Research,” synthesizing over 35 public opinion studies, examines polling and focus group research on affirmative action and related topics over time, yielding key insights into prevailing public opinion on the issue, and how opinion has shifted in the last several decades. The analysis also includes polling on general views on discrimination, racial progress, diversity, and opportunity, with a section on messaging research around race and affirmative action.
To read more, download our memo below: