I wouldn’t say we should be slaves to public opinion data but I think it’s still true that a serious left politics takes these data seriously. And that should be true of reparations and other race-related issues, just as in other areas of concern to progressives.
I therefore applaud the excellent Perry Bacon Jr. at 538 for rounding up the latest public opinion data on a wide range of these issues so we can see what Americans really do think about them. Bacon divides up his survey into three categories: popular, mixed opinions and unpopular. In regard to the latter category he notes:
“Reparations, along with abolishing ICE, are very unpopular. This was not surprising to me, which is why I was surprised when I first saw the headline, “2020 Democrats Embrace Race-Conscious Policies, Including Reparations” in the Times. But the candidates’ actual comments were more in the vein of our first two categories — somewhat vague acknowledgements of the inequality that black Americans face. The challenge for Democratic elected officials, as the party leans into its racial liberalism, will be how to translate the public’s general pro-minority proclivities into policy. I suspect that Democratic presidential candidates will end up pushing policies that limit how aggressive ICE can be and that address the wealth gap between black and whites — but fall short of explicit calls for abolishing ICE or giving reparations.”
I think Bacon’s assessment is correct though, as he also notes, things could change in the future. But for now that is where we are and a wise politics takes these constraints into account.