From the East Coast to the West Coast and points in between, media reports* have highlighted the political impact of the U.S. Government’s plans to add this question to the 2020 Census: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” As background, the U.S. Census survey included a citizenship question from 1890 through 1950. Since 1950, only a sample of house¬holds have been asked about citizen status. The Government’s rationale for reinstating the citizenship question in 2020: inclusion will allow for better enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
Media reports have discussed that reviving the citizenship question may discourage many U.S. non-citizen residents from participating in the Census, because they fear arrest and/or deportation, if they answer it. Articles note that a lack of Census participation by large number of immigrants would generate inaccurate population counts, especially in areas with a high number or proportion of immigrants. This would depress the number of Congressional seats and Federal funding for population-based programs in these areas, leading several states to sue the U.S. Government.
Marketing is based on consumers in markets, not citizens in markets.—
Because many marketing and media decisions are also based on population counts, the ANA wanted to gauge their members’ reaction to the Government’s adding the citizenship question. They chose to survey members of three committees whom they “judged would be most knowledgeable and interested in this issue: Data & Measurement Committee, Legal Affairs Committee, and Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee. In total, 144 members responded.” Findings follow:
A majority of the three committees’ respondents – 63% overall – were aware of the Government’s proposal to add a citizenship question to the Census with varying knowledge among the committees. Seventy percent of the Legal Affairs Committee knew about it compared to 67% of the Data & Measurement Committee and 55% of the Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee.
Respondents across all three committees strongly opposed adding the citizenship question to the Census survey:
- “Among those aware that the United States Depart¬ment of Commerce has approved the proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, 60 percent oppose it and 13 percent support it, while 27 percent don’t know enough to have an opinion. Responses are fairly similar across the three committees.
- Looked at another way, among the total respondents with the knowledge to have an opinion, 83 percent oppose the citizenship question.”
Their opposition stemmed from the same concern as some politicians and media outlets have expressed: adding a citizenship question to the Census will discourage participation among immigrant respondents and their families, causing inaccurate population counts that will result in misallocated resources (although in this case marketing resources). The ANA cited a number of written responses to their survey, such as:
- “It would affect the data we rely on to quantify the marketplace, and thereby understate the business opportunity.”
- “Marketing is based on consumers in markets, not citizens in markets.”
- “I believe that undocumented people and their families (even if citizens) will not report their presence, and the Census will be underreported, skewing data, messing up budgets, and providing inaccurate reporting.”
Given the results of their member survey, the ANA wrote to Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. (The Department of Commerce oversees the Census and requested the addition of the citizenship question.)
To date, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) the 4A’s, the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), and the Media Rating Council (MRC) have told the ANA that they share similar concerns and support the ANA’s position, i.e., adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census will cause inaccurate population counts with negative effects on marketing, media, and research efforts. Others may join.
The period in which the public can provide feedback to the Department of Commerce has begun and will end on August 7, 2018. The ANA is encouraging its members and others to write Secretary Ross regarding their concerns in the hope that the citizenship question will not be added to the 2020 Census.
*A sample of media coverage on the implications of including a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census follows:
2020 Census Shouldn’ Ask About Citizenship
Many Noncitizens Plan to Avoid the 2020 Census Test Run Indicates
Trump 2020 Census Citizenship Question Could Affect Economy Politics 2018
2020 Census Citizenship Question Makes a Mockery of our Progress/
Talking Points Citizenship Question 2020 Census
Citizenship Question Brings Concern for us Census Undercount
Census Citizenship Question Rankles Rhode Island Site of only Count Trial Run