Support for Affirmative Action Decreases

One law professor credits the decline to the "Obama effect."

Posted: 06/11/2013 06:28 PM EDT

As the Supreme Court reviews the Abigail Fisher v. Texas case, a newly released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows a decrease in support for affirmative action.

The poll shows that 45 percent of participants say affirmative action programs are still needed, while an equal 45 percent feel the programs should be ended.

Across party lines, only 67 percent of Democrat and 22 percent of Republican participants find such programs a necessity.

Kevin Brown, a law professor at Indiana University, attributes the dwindling support to the “Obama effect.”

“Certainly, the election of Barack Obama as president has made a difference…” Brown tells NBC News. “My concern is underneath the veneer there is this separate story that the descendants of slaves are falling farther and farther to the bottom in a way that no one would recognize. The group most left behind is the group most affected by our history of racial discrimination.”

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, believes that the decline reflects a shift in focus from race to economic status.

In an email to NBC News, he wrote, “The decline in support for affirmative action based on race is not surprising, as the growing divide between rich and poor has become more important to an individual's life chances than the differences between being white and black.”

But Brown said he believes that statement “misses the point."

“It’s not that people don’t have obstacles to overcome because of low socioeconomic status,” Brown said, “but race provides a different set of obstacles than socioeconomic status. It’s not an either-or. It’s really both.”

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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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