By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The Trump administration is reopening the heated debate over race and college admissions and it turns out the Bay Area may be overwhelmingly against affirmative action too.

The Justice Department is considering suing colleges and universities for discriminating against white applicants.

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In our exclusive KPIX 5 SurveyUSA poll we asked Californians what they think about affirmative action.

A whopping 72 percent said state universities should treat all applicants the same regardless of background.

Just 14 percent say certain populations should get preferential treatment.

In the Bay Area, only 10 percent think race should be a factor in admissions.

Affirmative action has been a hot button issue on California campuses for decades.

In 1996, California voters ended affirmative action at state colleges.

In 2014, Sacramento lawmakers tried to bring it back, only to run into a buzz saw of opposition from Asian Americans.

But as Chinese For Affirmative Action director Vincent Pan tells us, it wasn’t about race – it was about space.

“Chinese Americans are not about trying to keep black people down. There is racism in every community, but the concerns on issues of higher education is just trying to get their kids ahead,” Pan said.

Let’s take a look at the numbers: African-Americans make up about 6 percent of the state population and 5 percent of University of California undergraduate admissions, Latinos make up 37 percent of the state population and 33 percent of the 2017 UC undergrad admissions.

Whites make up 57 of the state population and make up 24 percent of UC undergrad admissions.

On the other hand, Asian Americans, who make up 13 percent of the population account for 34 percent of the admissions.

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“We do have record numbers of Chinese students,” Pan said.

But in 2012, state lawmakers proposed bringing it back as a way to help level the field.

There were segments, very vocal segments, of the Chinese Community who felt that creating spots for Latinos and Blacks would mean fewer spots for their own kids.

Pan is a supporter of affirmative action on all levels but said like everyone, Asian families are feeling stressed over too few spaces at U.C.

Pan said, “The pressure the community feels around higher education scarcity is real.”

Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon said, “On merit the Asians would be occupying 90 percent of U.C. Berkeley based on test scores.”

She says it’s not just the Chinese who are opposed to bringing back affirmative action in admissions.

Dhillon said, “I’d say every Asian Community – Indian American, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, all of these communities in my experience, have been agitating.”

Pan, however, says the answer is to make U.C. bigger and expand admissions for everyone and that by going after affirmative action, critics are just going after the wrong target.

Pan said, “Those who attack affirmative action are making a mistake thinking that attacking affirmative action will help their kids get ahead. In fact, it will do the opposite.”

Race is always a sensitive issue and that may be one reason why lawmakers in Sacramento have laid low on the issue of affirmative action.

However, that may change as it is already being raised as an issue in the upcoming governor’s race.

Our KPIX 5 SurveyUSA poll also showed that 83 percent of white people polled in the Bay Area wanted California universities to treat all applicants the same, 63 percent of Hispanic people agreed, 66 percent of Asian people agreed, and only 57 percent of black people agreed with that statement.

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Bottom line, there is agreement that everybody should be treated equally, we can’t agree on how we should get to that equal point.