ANA Members Oppose Addition of Citizenship Question for 2020 Census

June 28, 2018

By Bill Duggan

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ANA members widely oppose the addition of a "citizenship" question to the 2020 census. The Department of Commerce, which has oversight of the census, recently approved the addition of a question that asks, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?"

Opponents of the citizenship question believe it will create an environment of fear and distrust in immigrant communities and depress response to the census from noncitizens and even legal immigrants. That runs the risk of non-respondent bias by significantly undercounting immigrant, minority and low-income populations. Census costs could rise, as increased non-response would lead to an increase in in-person follow-ups. Of most importance, if immigrants and others (e.g., their families, even if citizens) avoid the national headcount, the census results will be flawed.

The ANA surveyed members of three committees whom we felt 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 with key findings as follows:

Awareness of the issue is mixed.

  • 63 percent of total respondents are aware that the U.S. Department of Commerce has approved a proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.

ANA members broadly oppose the citizenship question.

  • Among those aware that the Commerce Department 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. Looked at another way, among the total respondents with the knowledge to have an opinion, 83 percent oppose the citizenship question.

The key concern among ANA members is that the addition of a citizenship question would depress response among both non-citizens and their families (even if family members are indeed citizens). Inaccurate census data would lead to misallocated marketing resources.

Verbatim comments from survey respondents include:

  • "Marketing decisions/investments are often made based on population counts. If the question leads to non-citizens not answering, millions of people — primarily minorities — might not be counted. Inaccurate population counts would lead to misallocated resources."
  • "It would affect the data we rely on to quantify the marketplace, and thereby undersize the business opportunity."
  • "Marketing is based on consumers in markets, not citizens in markets. As a business user of the data, we need the census data to accurately reflect all segments of our society. Non-citizen residents contribute a great deal to many economies. Marketers need to understand who truly lives and works in the U.S."

The ANA opposes the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census and will be voicing our perspective to the Commerce Department and Secretary Wilbur Ross. We encourage ANA members to do the same.

As a key next step, the Office of Management and Budget (part of the White House) will release the Census 2020 questions for public review and comment via a Federal Register notice likely sometime this month. There will be a 60-day comment period. During that period the ANA will express our views and again encourage ANA members to do so.

Census counts need to be as accurate as possible to help ANA members optimize their marketing investments.

 

Bill Duggan is a group EVP at the ANA.

 

Thanks to MediaVillage for publishing an earlier version of this perspective.

 


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