Education Higher Ed, Affirmative Action
February 16th, 2023 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Issue Brief: Stacking the deck in favor of affirmative action?

How “framing” affects polling on one of America’s most controversial policies

New York, NY – Media headlines have proclaimed that over two-thirds of Asian Americans support affirmative action in college admissions. These reports stem from a survey by AAPI Data, a polling group media pundits deem authoritative on Asian American policy views. In a new Manhattan Institute issue brief, Paulson Policy Analyst Renu Mukherjee debunks AAPI Data’s polling methodology, arguing that their survey questions intentionally incline respondents to express support for the controversial admissions policy. In 2022, AAPI Data asked respondents if they favored “affirmative action programs designed to help Black people, women, and other minorities get better access to higher education?” Mukherjee contends that this framing inaccurately connotes equality of opportunity, while previous years’ AAPI Data surveys – and those of other polling groups – more accurately present how affirmative action works: a preferential quota system aiming at equality of outcome. When phrased in that way, Asian American support (like that of the general American public) plummets, and Mukherjee shows that AAPI Data was well-aware of how this question’s framing influences results. Drawing from leading research on public policy polling, comparing AAPI Data’s 2022 question to its question in past years, and contrasting AAPI Data’s framing to that of leading polling groups like Pew Research Center and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Mukherjee shows that the AAPI Data results reveal more about the question Asian Americans were asked than the values they hold. Mukherjee offers pollsters two recommendations:
  • Explain how affirmative action works: It should be accurately framed as seeking to further equal outcomes through a racial quota system.
  • Clarify the beneficiaries: Since college admissions are zero sum, survey responders should know which groups principally benefit from affirmative action, to avoid confusion about whether their own demographic stands to benefit.

Read the full issue brief here.


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