Lack of knowledge on the actual policies. Very few people actually understand the original executive orders, subsequent judicial decisions and legislation beyond sound bites via “news” that is insistent upon painting this as “taking stuff” from Whites for Black people (as if it is “just” about Black people). Honesty, how many White people have reviewed the actual history of why this is needed? It’s almost as rare to find as anyone who calls themselves “patriotic” who has actually read the Constitution or a Christian who has read the Bible. Media soundbites shaped by bigotry (in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society) absorbed by many Whites whose life ideologies have been shaped by bigotry is not going to produce the nuance and thought necessary to understand affirmative action. (Even so, these two simple, non in-depth cartoons explain this almost as well as the complex legalese: 1 and 2.)
Anti-intellectualism. Piggybacking on the first point, the current culture of anti-intellectualism doesn’t encourage most White people (and Americans at large) to actually investigate things they are “for” or “against.” It’s much simpler to decide to be “for” anything shaped by a legacy of White supremacy and White privilege and against anything that appears to be contrary to the former. Whites are used to being a “baseline,” the “norm,” or not considered a group at all, but those whom other groups are compared to. Sociopolitically, many Whites are having a “day of reckoning” moment by even being classified as a “group,” or a “race” as Tom Scocca pointed out so well in a recent article about Romney’s overwhelming support from Whites. These factors contribute to the resistance to affirmative action.
Ahistorical views on race. If a White person takes the "why isn’t there a White history month" and "why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television station" stances on Whites and the media, it can be safely assumed that they are either uneducated or being willfully ignorant about the role of race in America and why certain spaces exist for Black people amidst the media, public discourse and culture itself. By pretending that the tide of history has no racial element, they can then infer that if everyone “is equal” (as if being equal means being treated equally) Black people are “unfairly” getting “goodies” through affirmative action. This also ignores the fact that even with said theoretical ”goodies,” unemployment, health care, finances, real estate, and more is markedly worse for Black people (and other people of colour) versus White. The latter is written off as Black “character failures” in the ever so common victim blaming ideologies such as American “exceptionalism” and even “patriotism” at times. This is where LIES about "poverty culture" come about as a way to praise greed, wealth and Whiteness and demonize suffering, poverty and Blackness.
The concept of what “greatness” is. The inherent racism involved in assuming that someone White is always “more” qualified, as if being White is a skill itself, is common in everything from college admissions to employment applications. The idea is that some “stupid” minority “stole” a slot from the perfect White knight on a horse who deserved things because he “worked” for them prevails. Further, the idea that perhaps a series of advantages afforded by White privilege is “hard work” would be even more humorous if it wasn’t despicable. Said privileges often place Whites ahead in spaces by sheer virtue of the luxury of Whiteness, not any actual work. The myth of meritocracy is a plague on the American psyche. (Christopher Hayes wrote about this oh too well in his book Twilight Of The Elites - America After Meritocracy. Also, I recently read a fascinating study about the REALITY of financial aid versus the myth that “stupid” minorities “take all of the college monies,” and other assorted lies.)
A zero/sum view of racism. Ultimately, many Whites feel that any joy, success or progress in Black life means misery, failure and regression in White life. Period. This tunnel vision view is rooted in racism and fear. Research has revealed that many cisgender heterosexual White men feel like the “real” victims in America. Even if they are victims, would that not be at the hands of men just like them, except of a higher social class? Not to them. Racist social narratives involve the worship of "job creators" (the same ones who fire these men) as heroes because after all, they share Whiteness even if they don’t share class, status or cash. Other research has revealed that while some Whites view past times (during and pre-Civil Rights era) as a time more racist against Blacks, they view today as “more racist” against Whites. Of course this is false and has more to do with the idea of some Black people not suffering and Barack Obama’s existence more than any in-depth study of how race is a primary factor to consider when examining socioeconomic status. The enlightened exceptionalism involved in some who even choose to praise Oprah or Beyonce or LeBron James is what allows them to pretend that life for the average and for most Black people has dramatically changed, when for many, it has not. Claims of “reverse racism,” which doesn’t exist, are more common now than ever.
People who benefit from affirmative action also want it destroyed. While more than anyone else White women have benefited from affirmative action, many of them stand with White men against affirmative action while simultaneously benefiting from it. Most people now know the name Abigail Fisher and know it well. Further, many older Black people (primarily men from what I’ve seen) want it dismantled despite the fact they benefited from it in the past. They clearly knew that in their time especially, being qualified was not enough. Assumed inferiority blocked their way.