On Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the Trump administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census will help with getting an “accurate headcount.” In fact, census and civil rights experts have explained that the move will lower confidence in the census and lead to some immigrants not filling it out, decreasing its accuracy.
The citizenship question already exists on the smaller American Community Survey that goes out to a small portion of households every year, but this will be the first time it will be included on the full decennial census survey since 1950. According to The Wall Street Journal, it will ask “whether a person is a citizen by birth or by naturalization or isn’t a citizen. It won’t ask about the legality of an immigrant’s presence.” The census is used for, among other things, apportioning seats in the House of Representatives and distributing federal funding among the states.
Census and civil rights experts have said that the addition of this question will decrease response rates from immigrants, thus making the census less accurate:
- A bipartisan group of former Census Bureau directors in a letter sent to the commerce secretary: “We strongly believe that adding an untested question on citizenship status at this late point in the decennial planning process would put the accuracy of the enumeration and success of the census in all communities at grave risk.”
- Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President and CEO Vanita Gupta: “This untimely, unnecessary, and untested citizenship question will disrupt planning at a critical point, undermine years of painstaking preparation, and increase costs significantly, putting a successful, accurate count at risk.”
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke: “This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires.”
- Brennan Center Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser: “This question is a dangerous move that could lead to a serious skewing of the final census results, which would have a deleterious effect on our system of representative democracy."
- Census expert Terri Ann Lowenthal: “Between evidence that the administration is manipulating the census for political gain, and fear that the administration will use the census to harm immigrants, confidence in the integrity of the count could plummet. And the census is only as good as the public’s willingness to participate.”
But none of this mattered to Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy. According to him, the addition of a citizenship question will ensure an “accurate headcount” of people:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The Democrats say, look, you're just trying to intimidate the people who are in this country, maybe not legally, but in California they are.
STEVE HILTON: Yes, but there's a real thing. Being a citizen is a real thing with real issues attached to it that should affect your rights and your responsibilities in this country. So, establishing who is and isn't a citizen is a perfectly reasonable thing for government to do.
DOOCY: Maybe the Democrats out there are worried that if they have an accurate depiction of who is living out there, accurate headcount, it's not as many people as they think, they might lose federal money, they might lose congressional districts, who knows.