Proponents of Anti-Affirmative Action Measure in Missouri Get Their Way on the Language Used to Describe the Initiative on the Ballot

Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute is planning to introduce anti-affirmative action referendums in five states this coming November. Studies have shown that the words used in writing these referenda can make a huge difference in voter response.

For example, if the proposal is to “abolish affirmative action plans that provide greater access and opportunities and to increase diversity,” voters tend to vote “no.” But when the wording of the initiative is to “prohibit the government from giving preferences to particular racial groups,” voters tend to vote “yes.”

In Missouri, one of the five states Connerly is targeting this year, a judge has rejected the language used by the Missouri secretary of state to describe a ballot initiative and replaced it with language preferred by proponents of the affirmative action ban.

The description for the ballot now asks voters whether the state constitution should be amended to “ban state and local government affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment in public contracting, employment, or education based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Connerly has previously led successful efforts to pass similar initiatives in California, Michigan, and Washington State.