Trump’s Citizenship Question Isn’t Controversial.

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  • 09/21/2022

Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed that a question about US citizenship was removed from census questionnaires by President Barack Obama’s administration. However, it was during the previous, George W. Bush administration that the methodology of census data collection was changed, so that some households received long forms, and some short, with the citizenship question appearing on the long form only, which went to 1 in 5 households. This change facilitated more regular data collection. The Washington Post reported that “not only did Obama not remove the question from the census, over the past 10 years it has been asked more frequently than it was before his two terms in office.”


President Trump’s citizenship question on the upcoming U.S. census was, contrary to popular belief, at one point the norm for the decennial survey.

The planned citizenship question asks: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

During the George W. Bush Administration, the census data collection methodology was changed to only include a citizenship question on a fraction of census forms.

But today, the Trump administration is being assailed from the Left for its efforts to include the question.

The Left has responded typically, with accusations of racism. The question of nationality, they claim, is a danger to immigrants.

There has also been no shortage of confusion as to whether President Donald Trump would go forward with the choice to make the question standard on the upcoming census. Trump’s statements appear to contradict news reports that his administration dropped its plan to ask the question after a Supreme Court ruling.

The planned citizenship question asks: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

[caption id="attachment_179351" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]U.S. Census Letter U.S. Census Letter[/caption]

The political left’s dominant view is that the question could serve to marginalize immigrants or non-white Americans.

Trump is simply following the established and understandable tradition of asking those who fill out the form if they’re actually Americans.

NPR, quoting the Urban Institute, says the census threatens to put “more than 4 million people at risk of being undocumented.” The headline warns the addition of the question could lead to “worst undercount of black, Latinx people in 30 years.”

But the framing implies Trump is the first U.S. President to include a question on citizenship, when in fact Trump is simply following an understandable tradition of asking those who fill out the form if they’re actually Americans.

The charge against Trump is one that demands reframing.

From 2009 to 2016, Barak Obama's Census Bureau had no problem asking anyone if they were Americans on all eight of his annual ACSs (American Community Survey), which targeted smaller demographics key to the success of the Democrats in the eight years of his administration.

The ACS even asked the question in both English as well as Spanish.

[caption id="attachment_179348" align="aligncenter" width="731"]American Community Survey (Census Bureau) American Community Survey (Census Bureau)[/caption]

In the decades prior, administrations from Bush, to Clinton, going all the way back to 1820, had questions on citizenship, nationality, or nativity. The process originated with Thomas Jefferson.

[caption id="attachment_179336" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1870 Census 1870 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179337" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1880 Census 1880 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179338" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1900 Census 1900 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179339" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1910 Census 1910 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179340" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1920 Census 1920 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179341" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1930 Census 1930 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179342" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1940 Census 1940 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179343" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1950 Census 1950 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179344" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1960 Census 1960 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179345" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1970 Census 1970 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179346" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1980 Census 1980 Census[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179347" align="aligncenter" width="740"]1990 Census 1990 Census[/caption]

Ian Miles Cheong is the managing editor of Human Events



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