June 29th, 2009
10:10 AM ET
5 years ago

CNN Poll: Two-thirds think firefighters were discriminated against

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll suggests that nearly two-thirds of Americans think white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut where discriminated against when the city tossed out the results of a promotion exam after too few minorities scored high enough on the test.

Monday the Supreme Court, in a five to four vote, ruled in favor of the white firefighters.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Monday morning, as the Supreme Court handed down it's ruling, indicates that 65 percent of those questioned say the firefighters were victims of discrimination and should get promotions based on the test results, with 31 percent feeling that the city should a new test to make sure minority firefighters were not victims of discrimination.

"Not surprisingly, most Republicans think that the firefighters were victims of discrimination, but a majority of Democrats join in that view," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Fifty-seven percent of Democrats say the white firefighters were discriminated against. Two-thirds of Independents and three-quarters of Republicans agree."

Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter, was one of three appeals court judges who ruled that New Haven officials acted properly.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,026 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: CNN poll • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Robin

    Two groups took a test(s) for jobs and or promotions. Whites and minorities.

    White firefighters scored higher. They were passed over.
    Minorities scored lower. They were given jobs and promotions.

    Would it only be called discrimination if it were the other way around?

    So the Supreme Court has pretty much said that Judge Sonia Sotomayor was wrong. That will make her confirmation hearings a little more interesting.

    June 29, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Michael

    I agree 100% with the firefighters. One point I would like to make:
    Discrimination is Discrimination there is no such thing as Reverse. I am so sick of hearing this term used.

    June 29, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  3. Vanessa

    And I would guess the sample was primarily white. This is a complicated issue, and should be discussed completely and with nuance and detail. Polls that are simple questions are skewed to simple thinkers.

    June 29, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  4. TCM

    ABsolutely........this is the type of judge we want on the SC? A derivative of Affirmative Action? Had she not been hispanic, and female, she wouldn't be considered...Obama's selection of her is merely a power play, and hispanics should be outraged that he's looking down his nose at them; trying to lure them into a false sense of comradery; merely for their votes. She was not picked on merit or track record; strictly a racial and political issue....the law? What's that?

    June 29, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. N

    I don't understand this case at all. Were white fire fighters given a test that was different than the rest of the fire fighters? Because if all of them took the same test, and the results turned out as they did, then why were the white fire fighters being punished because they passed the test, while a majority of minorities did not? And why would you not promote the fire fighters that passed the test? I believe in equal opportunity, I do, and I also believe in a system where the best man gets the job. In this case the fire fighters that got the highest scores on the test should get their promotions and retroactive pay, back to the original date that they would have received them. To those that think because few minorities passed the test, the test should be thrown out, and equal numbers of whites and minorities should be promoted on some other basis, then I am thankful that our Supreme Court ruled in favor of the white fire fighters. During emergencies when fire fighters are called in, we need the best and brightest people leading the way, in charge to make sure the situation is handled in the best way.

    June 29, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Tim

    I am shocked that only 2/3rds of Americans believe that these firefighters were not discriminated against. If 100% of the "preferred" people passed the exam, there would be no complaints about the exam. The only reason that the city invalidated the exam, is that the "right" people did not pass.

    Here is another example of the government trying to social engineer what it wants or thinks is fair. In the process it is being racist and unfair. The exam was an unbiased and race-blind method for assessing who should be promoted.

    Signed,
    An Independent Minority Voter

    June 29, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. Post always rejected by CNN

    I think discrimination works both ways. I think that people should be promoted or hired on their qualifications and race or religion should never be considered. I also think age and being a woman should not be discriminated against. That still happens and nothing is done about it.

    June 29, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. chuck

    I'd like to see a fresh poll on whether Americans would like to see Sotomayer expedited to the Supreme Court bench. If it were taken today, I don't think she would have the confidence numbers. I know that I would like to see her go away A.S.A.P.

    June 29, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    Add me to the list who thought the firefighters were discrimminated...to bad Sotomayor didn't felt that way.

    June 29, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. Nellore S. Venkataraman

    This raises further questions on whether Sonia Sotomayor can keep her personal beliefs and prejudices away from influencing the interpretation of the law

    June 29, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. IndyVoter

    So my question is...If the city, county, state, etc. create exams designed to exclude minorities (this is not a new practice in this country, it has been occurring since even before the Civil Rights Act), then what recourse do minorities have to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen?....I guess it would be ok to everyone if in fact the tests were biased.

    June 29, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. DLHanna

    Not everything is a race issue! Maybe the minorities just didn't take the test seriously? What would have happened if a new test version got the same results? As a minority myself, i think the race card should be discarded.

    June 29, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. A White American

    If this case was in violation of current laws, I support the outcome of a reversal in favor of the white men.

    With that said, we need not forget, that this country has a 200 year history of Legalized Racial Discrimination, I surely hope that this one case doesn't loose sight of this fact.

    White men were at the for front of Jim Crow laws, we know that the effects of these laws are still prevelant today, regardless is there's a African American occupying the white house.

    June 29, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  14. bert

    The other third were black people. I love racist white people because they have balls. God bless all of you out there and may all of you and your families reap all from the universe that you deserve.

    June 29, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Jerry

    Guess this proves a "wise Latina woman" ain't qualified for Supreme Court, as she prefers to give special treatment to minorities.

    June 29, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. aware of nothing

    Another wasted amount of money for this poll. Of course the firefighters should have recieved their promotion, but that is not what is in the books people. Republicans complain about judicial activism but you forget the Supreme court is the one who was doing the activism here- even richard posner of chicago went with the 3 member panel which included sotomayor and.......a REPUBLICAN...Get a grip folks

    June 29, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  17. John

    I agree that the firefighters were discriminated against. This is another example of a good intention paving the way to hell.

    If a problem exists in society, should be punish those who are not a part of the problem? Why couldn't the minorities pass with high scores? I think the New Haven officials should have addressed that issue. It's too easy to hank the test and not address anything until some fire fighter decides to defend their rights.

    June 29, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  18. joe m

    discrimiantion, by definition, is "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit". the firefighters were treated in the manner that they were based soley on their race, or rather on what race they were not. the city erred in their judgement, and in doing so created this entire mess.

    June 29, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  19. Cortney

    Does anyone actually know what questions were on the exam? Every story that I see conveniently neglects to include any thing that would indicate whether or not the questions in the exam would be geared toward race and simply states that a bunch of white guys passed and bunch of individuals of a racial minority didn't pass. How can anyone form an opinion on information like that? It looks to me like people are hearing only what they want to hear.

    June 29, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  20. T

    Interesting. I've been watching and reading about this and have never seen any of the questions from the exam. I doubt the people responding to the poll have either. So, what do they base their decision on? How can any of us offer an opinion without having some knowledge of what we are talking about? This is what is wrong with America, let's inform ourselves before we open our mouths. I refuse to form an opinion on this until I know enough not to sound like an idiot.

    June 29, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. UNHAPPY DEM

    It's about time things started changing, there has been too much reverse discrimination going on that goes unnoticed, but let some so called discrimination happen and it's all over the media. Affirmitive action needs to go away also. The playing field is level now.

    June 29, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  22. Victor

    Lost in the account was that 2 Hispanic firefighters also scored high enough to be considered for promotions, so clearly the issue wasnt that the test was biased against minorities.

    How have minorities fared the previous ocassions the test was administered?

    How many black/white/hispanic/asian/other races firefighters took the test and how many passed and what were their scores?

    On the outside, without knowing the full details of the case, I would agree that the white fire fighters were unjustly denied an opportunity for a promotion.

    June 29, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  23. m

    ill informed people...black people don't make up a third of the US population so your comment about all blacks said it was unfair is dumb.
    Fact: You can make a test that favors a certain group.. this has been proven time and time again. I am not saying this is what happened but the test should be evaulated .. If it was a fair test to ALL cultures and races in American.. then yes they were discriminated against.. by the way .. I am black.

    Funny how the loudest voices for reverse discrimination are some of the most quiet voice's for traditional discrimination.. and truly doesn't it say alot when white people are discriminated against .. its called reverse...shouldn't just be called discrimination and since its not. then what group appears to have owner ship of discrimination.. think about before you respond

    June 29, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  24. Debby

    What is so complicated Vanessa? It's a simple straightforward issue. Everyone took the SAME TEST. They either passed it or they didn't. The promotion should go to the highest score. it's as simple as that. We all want the most qualified person in charge if our house were burning down.

    As for the sampling, what are you implying? Somehow only white people were contacted by telephone? Now we have racial telephone screeing? Get real. It's people with attitudes like you who are part of the problem.

    June 29, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. Liz

    This kind of thing makes me so frustrated. I will fully admit that discrimination against minorities still exists in the world today, but I can't help but think that "equality" should not be the main focus in this situation. Firefighting isn't about race or gender, it's about saving lives. I don't care if the promoted firefighters are white, black, or have two heads; when my house is on fire and my family in danger, I want the most qualified people there leading the rescue.

    I think that anyone who argued against the firefighters would feel differently if their family was in danger and less qualified people were sent simply because the city tried to make things "fair."

    June 29, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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