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More Americans want Congress to better address racial equity


Surprising responses to race-conscious questions

A new survey asking Americans how they want Congress to address racial equity has shown some variation on the top priorities among different racial groups.

The survey, conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies at the University of Chicago, presented Americans with several race-conscious issues and asked respondents to identify the priorities they feel congressional leaders need to address to achieve a more racially equitable society. 

These options included hiring staff representative of them and their interests and reflective of the diversity in their community, ensuring laws do not racially discriminate, passing legislation that helps to decrease racial inequality and passing legislation to make sure that every American has the right to vote. 

Priorities differed among racial groups, but Black Americans were most likely to rank all the race-conscious issues as top priorities for members of Congress.

Nearly 80% of Black Americans said that ensuring Congress passes anti-discrimination laws is their top priority. 

White Americans, however, said passing legislation to ensure every American has a right to vote was their top priority. 

Fifty-four percent of respondents said that congressional members hiring staff that is representative of them and their interests should also be an important or top priority for Congress. 

When broken down along racial lines, 68% of Black respondents said hiring a reflective staff should be a top priority, compared with 54% of Hispanic respondents and 52% of White respondents.

“Racially conscious leadership and policymaking is crucial to maintaining American democracy; it enables leaders to provide different policy perspectives to comprehend the priorities of diverse communities,” said Dr. LaShonda Brenson, senior researcher for the Joint Center’s Hill diversity work and co-author of their blog. 

“With Americans continued prioritization of racial equity in hiring, legislation, and voting rights, especially in light of the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, legislators must reflect the needs of their constituents.”

Priorities varied by gender and education level. 

Women were more likely than men to rank race-conscious priorities as top priorities, and those with a bachelor’s degree ranked race-conscious policy priorities higher than those with no high school diploma.

Still, 73% of respondents said passing legislation to make sure that every American has the right to vote should be an important or top priority for Congress. Black respondents were most likely to say this, with 80% of Black Americans agreeing with the statement, compared with 74% of White respondents and 61% of Hispanic respondents. 

Race-conscious policies have come under heavy fire this year. This summer, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions in higher education. Soon after, House Republicans introduced legislation to abolish the Office of Diversity and Inclusion of the House of Representatives. 

These developments followed the 2022 midterms, where voting rights and the underlying racial inequity concerns were a top issue in several states.