- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2019

It turns out that asking about citizenship may not have soured the 2020 census after all, according to a test the Census Bureau did to see what the effect of the controversial question would be.

The Trump administration dropped plans to ask the question after the Supreme Court erected significant hurdles in June, with some of the justices siding with anti-Trump activists who said immigrants — and particular those in the country illegally — would be too scared to respond to the decennial count.

But the Bureau had already gone ahead with preliminary tests of response rates with the question included, and they announced the results Thursday, finding the self-response rates were similar to previous tests.

“The major finding of the test was that there was no difference in self-response rates between forms with a citizenship question and without a citizenship question,” the bureau said.

Self-response is the first part of the census, and accounts for households that send back the forms on their own without needing follow-up.



According to the test of 480,000 households, the self-response rate with the citizenship question included was 52.3%. The rate without the question was 51.5%. Those are similar to tests without the citizenship question from earlier this decade, the bureau said.

That undercuts the feverish complaints, and even contradicts some of the bureau’s own experts, who’d warned of a major drop in participation.

Judge Jesse M. Furman, a district judge who heard the case before it reached the Supreme Court, ruled that the response rate in immigrant households would drop by at least 5.8%. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing one of the opinions for the high court in June, more than 1 million people would refuse to answer the census with a citizenship question included.

Officials Thursday said that while the question won’t be part of next year’s count, the results of the test could lay the basis for asking it on the 2030 count.

Citizenship is already asked on several other government surveys, including the American Community Survey, sent to a smaller sampling of homes each year.

But President Trump had wanted to ask the question on the full 2020 census, sent to all households.

His opponents feared he was trying to scare immigrants into not answering, and also feared the information could be used to draw legislative district lines in ways detrimental to immigrants’ political power.

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