Of course, the fact that only 15 percent of Americans support affirmative action policies at institutions like Harvard does not necessarily make these schools wrong. What is popular is not always right, and vice versa.
However, it is fair to say that a position as unpopular as using racial preferences in college admissions should be considered a controversial, non-mainstream position. Instead, however, the public discussion of affirmative action, particularly in the media, tends to follow the tired convention that a “controversial” position is one held by conservatives, not by establishment journalism.
The New York Times, for example, will describe affirmative action in college admissions as “a major – and highly contentious – legacy of the civil rights era, and one that white conservatives have opposed for decades.” The broad and increasing unpopularity of the policy is rarely, if ever, news that’s fit to print. The Washington Post’s supposedly “straight” news coverage similarly insinuates that opposition to racial preferences is largely an exercise in white identity politics.