The survey was taken after the U.S. Department of Commerce approved a request from the U.S. Department of Justice that a “citizenship” question be added to the 2020 census form that asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau.
The request was made on behalf of the current administration, which has said it believes the question would permit more effective enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. This would mark the first time since 1950 that a citizenship question would be included in the full census. Since then, the citizenship question has been asked of only a sample of households.
Those surveyed included members of three ANA key committees deemed the most knowledgeable about the issue: the Data & Measurement Committee, the Legal Affairs Committee, and the Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee. In total, 144 members responded.
Key findings include:
- More than 60 percent of the respondents were aware that the DOC had approved the request for the citizenship question. Awareness was highest among members of the Legal Affairs Committee (70 percent).
- Among those who were aware, 60 percent opposed adding the question, 13 percent supported it, and 27 percent indicated they lacked sufficient knowledge to formulate an opinion. Responses were fairly similar across the three committees.
- Among the total number of respondents to have formed a knowledgeable opinion either way, 83 percent opposed the citizenship question.
The survey revealed that opponents of the citizenship question believe it would create an environment of fear and distrust in immigrant communities and depress response to the census from noncitizens and even legal immigrants. Such a result would significantly undercount immigrant, minority, and low-income populations, and if immigrants and others (e.g., their families, even if citizens) avoid the national headcount, the census results will be flawed.
For marketers, inaccurate census results would distort the representation of U.S. population estimates and the research benchmarked to it because certain populations will likely be undercounted. It could have a particularly negative impact on media that cater to those communities, the companies that research them, and the agencies which help advertise to them. The value marketers see in those consumer segments will be understated and investments will be reduced.
The new question’s inclusion has been challenged in court on the grounds that it could cause many immigrants to skip the 2020 census out of fear that their information could be used against them. At least 12 states are suing, led by the New York Attorney General.
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 and will do so 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 encourage ANA members to do so as well.
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