Most Americans Agree That A Citizenship Question Would Hurt Accuracy For The 2020 Census

U.S. Census
AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith
U.S. Census
AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith

Most Americans Agree That A Citizenship Question Would Hurt Accuracy For The 2020 Census

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Most Americans regardless of political affiliation or racial background believe including a citizenship question in the 2020 census will impact the accuracy of the count, according to a national poll released last week by Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic.

The random survey of more than 1,000 people found that 81 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents agreed that it is at least somewhat likely that the census will not get an accurate count because some people will be worried about answering the citizenship question.

About 82 percent of white Americans, 75 percent of Latinos and about 55 percent of black Americans said asking the citizenship question would threaten the accuracy of the census count.

Overall, 76 percent of Americans said that a citizenship question would somewhat or very likely make the census count inaccurate.

Chairman for the Cook County Complete Census Count Commission Stanley Moore said he’s not surprised by the results of this poll. Moore is part of the county’s “hard to count” committee for the 2020 census.

Moore said people understand that an inaccurate count of the population will hurt everyone in Illinois.

A state’s total population, as measured by decennial census counts, determines the number of congressional seats it holds. Illinois has lost population each of the past five years, according to census estimates. If that trend continues, Illinois could lose as many as two congressional seats after the 2020 census.

“Anything that impedes us — the population — from wanting to answer the question, it’s going to hurt the entire state. Not just one particular population in the state, but the entire state,” Moore said.

Illinois has lost congressional seats following each of the past four decennial census counts, according to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Office of the Historian. Following the 1970 Census, Illinois had 24 seats. Currently, the state has 18 seats.

In March 2018, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a new citizenship would be added to the 2020 census. If approved, the proposed question would read: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

At least three lawsuits have been filed challenging the proposed question. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments about the citizenship question starting on April 23.

The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to start printing the 2020 census questionnaire this summer.

María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.