The Opportunity Agenda Releases an Affirmative Action Report

[Source: The Opportunity Agenda]

Affirmative Action in the Public Discourse: Media Content and Opinion Analysis

August 14, 2008 - While the United States was founded on the principles of equality, justice and freedom for all, not everyone experiences these values equally. Disparities are widespread throughout society and many racial groups continue to be marginalized. Policies like affirmative action are essential for ensuring that a large segment of the population does not fall behind and receives the proper education, and equal opportunity, that it deserves.

The Opportunity Agenda recently released, "Affirmative Action in the Public Discourse: Media Content and Opinion Analysis." The report, which is available for download here, sought to determine how the media is framing the anti-affirmative action debate and its impact on public opinion. The conclusions of the report show that the media has skillfully crafted affirmative action messages that imply these programs are no longer useful and that other, less divisive measures should be implemented. The research also found that media pieces consistently fail to acknowledge the consequences and negative effects a ban on affirmative action would have on people of color. Current media framing makes a ban on affirmative action seem not only inconsequential, but inevitable as well. However, the research also found that, despite the media’s efforts, public opinion has not turned against affirmative action.

We need to challenge the mainstream media frame and break the cycle of misinformation. Rather than basing affirmative action messages on policies and programs, we should base their messages on the values of Expanding Opportunity and the Common Good. To ameliorate the current situation, we should ensure the media takes the responsibility of presenting the entire picture to the public and provides context for the debate over affirmative action. In order to achieve this, it is important to engage civic leaders, religious leaders, businessmen, and leaders of the military in the discourse so that the message will resonate with everyone.

The debate over affirmative action is a highly volatile issue, especially in the coming election. We can take this opportunity to educate the public with a positive message based on community values and equality and show the public that a victory for affirmative action is a victory for American values.

Download the report here.

A memo offering communications advice for educating audiences about the importance of equal opportunity policies is also available. | (212) 334-5977