THE LEGACY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

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A majority of Americans believe that affirmative action programs have improved conditions for black Americans in recent years. A poll conducted in 1999 for Newsweek, by Princeton Research Associates, found that 52 percent of blacks and 51 percent of whites believe such programs have done “a lot� to help blacks in this country or have helped them “some.� Only 32 percent of blacks and 36 percent of whites believe that the programs have done “little� or “nothing� to improve matters. (The remainder of the respondents said they “didn't know.�) In one of its 2001 polls, the Gallup Organization found that, in response to a question worded differently, 58 percent of Americans think that affirmative action has been good for this country, up slightly from 54 percent in 1995.

If anything, the perceived need for affirmative action programs has increased in recent years, with 56 percent of Americans in the 2001 Gallup poll saying that they are necessary “to help women and minorities overcome discrimination,� up from 49 percent who said so in 1995. Furthermore, 66 percent of Americans in the 2001 poll said they believe such programs will always be needed, compared with only 30 percent who said the day will come when they will no longer be necessary.

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