The marketing research and data analytics industry has an opportunity to share our views about the decennial Census questionnaire and the Department of Commerce’s recent decision to add a question about citizenship to it. As Insights Association CEO David Almy stated at the time, “adding a citizenship question to the decennial census without appropriate testing introduces unknown accuracy risks due to the potential that it will deter legal or illegal immigrants from responding.”
Since the announcement, multiple lawsuits have been filed and are proceeding against adding the question. While none of those suits have been decided yet, demands for discovery during the legal process has revealed thousands of documents from the Justice Department and interesting background to how the decision was made. Some of those documents from within the Census Bureau indicated that the citizenship question addition could depress response rates, increase costs and hurt accuracy – all points that we made to the Administration and that research and data analytics professionals need to reiterate. As highlighted by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), one of the memos revealed that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had considered adding the citizenship question more than a year earlier, just as he came onto the job, despite claims that the idea and demand originated at the Department of Justice. Secretary Ross apparently also wrote in a May 2017 email: "I am mystified why nothing [has] been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question. Why not?"
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department is accepting public comment on the 2020 Census questionnaire and it is time for you to make a difference. Comments can be submitted via Regulations.gov, or via a Leadership Conference website that includes a template from which you can work. Talking points for your use are easily lifted from the Insights Association’s prior comments. We urge you to weigh in as soon as possible. Comments are due by August 7.