Saturday, June 23, 2018

Census Citizenship Question!

I have neglected my blog since 2016 because, honestly, I felt insulted by the political nonsense and could not bring myself to dignify the ignorance and ill intended diatribe.  Now I am writing because I feel that well meaning Americans should be aware of the consequences of adding a citizenship question in the 2020 Census of the United States.

Those of us who study social psychology and communication science understand that there are several issues at stake by including a citizenship question in the 2020 Census.  These are important considerations:

1.  The intention of adding a citizenship question in the 2020 Census can be interpreted in different ways.  The first, assuming a straightforward motivation, is to find out how many people are actually citizens.  That would be a fine motivation.  Most likely, however, the motivation for such a question is to discourage people from answering the US Census at all.  In that case, redistricting and other related political interests would favor those against immigrants.  And remember, the Census is about counting everyone in the United States. 

2.  Remember that being a citizen is not a requirement for being counted.  There are many legal residents who are not citizens.  Many politicians, however, do not know that. 

3.  Both undocumented (so called illegal) and non-citizen legal residents are likely to just opt out of the Census.  Why?  Because of implicit intimidation.  While the US Census is supposed to be completely confidential and no identities are supposed to be revealed, many people do not know that or doubt it.  Japanese American confidentiality was violated during World War II and given current xenophobic circumstances it may happen again.  Why would an undocumented (so called illegal) reveal their status even if assured anonymity?  It makes no sense.  In the case of legal residents who are not citizens, they may fear being ostracized or even targeted for exclusion.  Fear in this time of general hostility towards immigrants in general is justified. 

Even US Citizens of Hispanic, African, or Asian heritages may be discouraged from completing the Census because of fear of being suspected.  "Will they question my citizenship?"  Others may not answer just by being insulted because their friends and relatives are being targeted.  Others may just object to the Census count because it is the mandate of the Census to count everyone without restriction.

So what happens if a citizenship question is asked in the US 2020 Census?  There will likely be a severe undercount that will jeopardize the purpose of the Census and more importantly allow for more political manipulation.  The 2010 Census had a legend in the envelope stating that people residing in the US were mandated by law to reply.  I wonder how many people did not answer just by the fear generated by that statement.  Imagine the headaches the Bureau of the United States Census will face in trying to compensate for lack of response from a wide variety of constituencies. 

Getting someone to answer a survey or a census requires understanding the social psychology of the situation.  The problem is that ill intentions dressed in moral garbs can mislead everyone, even those who have the best interest of the United States in mind.