The left’s unconvincing alibi for the defeat of Prop 16

My favorite result from last week’s election was the defeat of Proposition 16 by the voters of California. Prop 16 was the left’s attempt to repeal California’s ban on racial and other forms of discrimination by the State. It lost decisively, 56.5 to 43.5.

Prop 16’s sponsors attribute the defeat to voter confusion. But Prop 16 didn’t lose because voters were confused. It lost because most people don’t favor the government making decisions based on race.

Prop 16’s sponsors are so sold on their BS about the wonders of diversity that they can’t get their minds around the fact that most Americans want the government to judge people by their character and their credentials, not by the color of their skin. But polls show that Americans still hold this old-fashioned view.

According to our friend Gail Heriot, of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission:

The polls have been consistent for decades. Whenever the issue is stated fairly and clearly, opposition to race and sex preferences is overwhelming. For example, in 2003, 2006, 2013, and 2016, the Gallup has asked the following question of poll respondents:

“Which comes closer to your view about evaluating students for admission into college or university—applicants should be admitted solely on the basis of merit, even if that results in few minority students being admitted (or) an applicant’s racial or ethnic background should be considered to help promote diversity on college campuses, even if that means admitting some minority students who otherwise would not be admitted.”

The responses were consistent: The number of respondents choosing “solely on merit” is always at least twice as great as the number choosing “help promote diversity.” In 2016, it was 70% for “solely on merit” vs. 26% for considering racial or ethnic background.

Note that the question was posed so as to take account of the arguments on both sides. Respondents were alerted to the possibility that without considering race or ethnic background “few minority students” may be admitted. Note also that, if anything, the question is unfair to the “NO on 16” campaign, since most “NO” voters are willing to take into consideration things other than academic achievement (such as low income); they simply oppose using race or ethnicity as the measure of disadvantage.

(Emphasis added)

Gallup isn’t the only polling organization whose surveys show a marked preference by Americans for merit-based decisionmaking:

In 2019, Pew Research conducted a similar poll that focused on employment instead of college admissions. Like the Gallup poll, the Pew poll gave respondents two choices:

“When it comes to decisions about hiring and promotions, companies and organizations should—

… Only take qualifications into account, even if it results in less diversity.

Or …

… Also take race and ethnicity into account in order to increase diversity.”

The results were consistent with the Gallup poll: 74% chose “only take qualifications into account,” while 24% chose “also take race and ethnicity into account.”

This was not because respondents didn’t see any value in racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace. When asked how important it is “for companies and organizations to promote racial and ethnic diversity in their workplace,” 75% said it is either “very important” or “somewhat important.” Only 24% said it was “not too important” or “not at all important.” They did not, however, believe race or ethnicity should be taken into consideration in hiring or promotions.

(Emphasis added)

The results were the same when, also in 2019, Pew surveyed the issue of race-based college admissions. Among adults, 73 percent said race and ethnicity should not be a factor in these decisions. Majorities of all races and ethnicities agreed. Only 26 percent of adults said race and ethnicity should be either a major (7 percent) or a minor (19 percent) factor.

In leading the opposition to Prop 16, Gail found that many that many left-of-center Californians agreed with her position:

Some helped out the campaign in large or small ways. I suspect that anyone who goes through our list of donors will find quite a few registered Democrats among them. They weren’t confused about Prop 16. They understood it all too well.

As for the language of Prop 16, it was produced by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (a liberal Democrat). Moreover, according to Gail:

[T]here was not a hint of any dissatisfaction with that language until it became clear that Proposition 16 was destined to lose. In July, it was the NO on 16 campaign that objected to the ballot language. While the NO side brought a lawsuit to correct what it viewed as misleading ballot language, as far as anyone could tell the YES side was happy with the language. Instead, YES side brought a lawsuit against the NO side, arguing that its ballot pamphlet argument was misleading. Both lawsuits were unsuccessful.

(Emphasis added)

There’s nothing confusing about the language regarding Prop 16 that appeared on the ballot. It stated:

ALLOWS DIVERSITY AS A FACTOR IN PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, AND CONTRACTING DECISIONS. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

SUMMARY

Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in order to address diversity by repealing constitutional provision prohibiting such policies. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state and local entities. The effects of the measure depend on the future choices of state and local government entities and are highly uncertain.

Prop 16’s backers have a low regard for the intelligence of California voters if they genuinely believe this language confused them.

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