Proposition 16 Goes Down in 22 Million Dollars Worth of Flames

The vote was 56% NO/44% Yes.


Thank you to all Volokh Conspiracy readers who helped us defeat Proposition 16 in California by volunteering, contributing or voting!

The YES campaign supporters are now making excuses as to how they could have spent about $22 million (as against our pathetic $1.7 million) and still lost. Their claim is that voters were just confused. But that's nonsense. Polls have been consistent for decades. Whenever the issue is stated fairly and clearly, opposition to race and sex preferences is overwhelming. All the NO campaign had to do is make sure voters knew what the issue was.

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.

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.

Pew Research also undertook a poll on the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions in 2019. The results were similar to those in the Gallup poll, except they were a little more critical of considering race or ethnicity than the Gallup respondents. Among adults, 73% said race and ethnicity should not be a factor. Majorities of all races and ethnicities agreed. Only 26% of adults said they should be either a major (7%) or a minor (19%) factor.

No wonder Prop 16 failed.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: November 5, 1917

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  1. That's actually really heartening results to see. I'm glad to see most people still think racism is wrong.

    1. Well, I don't think that was ever in doubt as far as California goes. As for the rest of the country, I wouldn't be so sure...

      1. It's even more sure in the rest of the country.

      2. Given that this vote wasn't a slaughter, are you really sure this wasn't in doubt in California?

      3. Well, I don’t think that was ever in doubt as far as California goes. As for the rest of the country, I wouldn’t be so sure…

        I see that your fundamental ignorance about this country has not diminished with time.

    2. It illustrates the failure of democracy in California, and much of America, though: The voters of California clearly don't want government endorsed racial discrimination. Consistently have not wanted it. But, somehow, they're incapable of electing representatives who agree with them.

  2. Stupid, fascist, commie, liberal, Hollywood elite Californ...

    Oh wait.

  3. Amateurs. If they were serious about getting something adopted they would have spent $186m, like Uber and their friends did.,_App-Based_Drivers_as_Contractors_and_Labor_Policies_Initiative_(2020)#Campaign_finance

    1. Oh, that thing where the entrnched taxi interests and unions wanted their politicians to drag disruptive competition under their yoke and crush it, with a fascade of being for the little guy as a cover story.

      1. If your idea of "disruptive" is "only makes money because they decided they were exempt from laws that apply to everyone else", then yes. If the extent of your disruption is your ability to use, exploit, and then spend money to expand, a legal loophole, then that's disruption that we can easily do without. (See also Amazon's sales tax exemption, Airbnb's exemption from just about everything, etc.)

        For the avoidance of doubt, there are crazy many laws in America that needlessly restrict competition. In Europe at least half of them would have been thrown out ages ago as restrictions (on trade) having an equivalent effect (to import tariffs). In the US there's supposed to be such a thing as the dormant commerce clause, but it seems to be pretty dormant. For example, North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC (SCOTUS, 2015) was bonkers. Fair enough that that's not covered by the Sherman Act, but how is that not an unconstitutional restriction on trade across state lines?

        Anyway, the solution for that problem is litigation and elections, not letting rich companies buy their own loopholes.

        1. "Anyway, the solution for that problem is litigation and elections, not letting rich companies buy their own loopholes."

          Um, the rich company didn't buy a loophole, they convinced a normally-regulation-friendly population to vote them a loophole. And given how unpopular AB5 is in an otherwise regulatory friendly state, it's not surprising that they were able to do so. As for the effect of the spending that you pointed out, I suppose we can ask President Bloomberg what he thinks.

          1. Sure they bought a loophole.
            Uber and Lift did NOT spend to get AB5 removed from the books, had they done that I would have voted for the proposition. Instead they campaigned to have their operations exempted so that they did not have to pay benefits to drivers.

    2. Perhaps Uber and Lift didn't need to spend that much.
      Perhaps Californians prefer to let people make their own choices. IF someone wants to drive they can always go work for a taxi cab company.

      I find it interesting that this proposition get defeated despite having a lot more money behind it than the opponents. Yet Proposition 22 gets bashed because it won with a lot of money.

      In election news in general I think you can find a number of races where money made little difference. Perhaps the amount of money in elections is less important that some people think. Perhaps it only goes to keep the political operatives well paid and does little for voters.

  4. Prof. Heriot --

    Are you still claiming to identify as TNRDNCANBENPI*?

    (* that's "totally non-Republican, definitely non-clinger, absolutely non-bigot, entirely non-partisan independent" for statutory 'compliance' and system-rigging purposes)

    Carry on, clingers. But just so far and so long as better Americans permit, as usual.

  5. There are far more admissions that are not merit based than race based admissions. The survey design was piss poor. If to want merit to be the sole deciding factor, then you should actually go with that. Keeping black people out if schools does not mean you're upholding meritocracy.

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