BLACKS, WHITES SPLIT SHARPLY ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION POLICY Series: POST-DISPATCH SHOW-ME POLL RACE RELATIONS Sidebar Story

Article excerpt

Black residents of the St. Louis area are far more likely than whites to support affirmative action, according to the Post-Dispatch Show-Me Poll.

The poll of 500 St. Louis area residents on both sides of the river found that 78 percent of blacks either "somewhat approved" or "strongly approved" of affirmative action. Whites, on the other hand, were about equally divided between approval and disapproval of gender and racial preferences in hiring, governmental contracts and other areas.

That such support differs strongly along racial lines is in keeping with often-rancorous national debate recently about affirmative action. Race-based remedies have been high on public policy agendas from the White House to the board room of the University of California Board of Regents, which recently ended affirmative action in hiring, admissions and contracting.

Overall, when data are not broken down by race, slightly more than half of the metropolitan area's residents either "somewhat" or "strongly" approve of affirmative action. Blacks made up 14 percent of the 500 people who were polled in the St. Louis area. Forty percent of the total of respondents either "somewhat" or "strongly" disapproved of affirmative action. The rest had no opinion or refused to answer.

One of those polled, Chris Voris, 36, of south St. Louis, said, "I still think a lot of those laws are necessary." Voris, who is white, added that, "even though all places say today that they are equal opportunity employers, there are a lot of underground prejudices out there, and they do tend to influence some people."

Despite her support for affirmative action, Voris, who works as a bank teller, believes it does sometimes result in reverse discrimination against whites who may be more qualified than minority job applicants. …