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Americans Agree on Ramifications of a Census Citizenship Question

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the inclusion of a new question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. The citizenship question could result in millions of Americans not being counted and in turn, this could dramatically alter the legislative makeup of several states, including California and Texas. PRRI data shows that there is broad agreement that the new citizenship question would lead to an inaccurate census count, but partisanship reigns supreme over what that would ultimately mean. Approximately three-quarters (76%) of Americans say it is at least somewhat likely that the census will not get an accurate count because some people will be worried about answering this question. A majority (53%) of Americans say this is a very likely outcome. Only 10% say it is somewhat or very unlikely that the census count will be inaccurate because of this question, while 14% say they don’t know or refused to answer the question.

Notably, there is strong bipartisanship agreement that this question would lead to an inaccurate census count. More than three-quarters of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (77%), and approximately seven in ten independents (71%) agree that it is at least somewhat likely that the census will not get an accurate count because of this question. Democrats (60%) are more likely than Republicans (48%) to say that it is very likely that including a question about citizenship status will hinder an accurate census count.

Americans are more divided about how they believe the question will be applied. One-third (33%) say the government will use the question to check on an individual’s immigration status, while 26% say the question will only be used for counting the population, and a plurality (41%) say they don’t know how it will be used or refused to answer the question.

Democrats (49%) and independents (30%) are substantially more likely than Republicans (19%) to believe that the question will be used to investigate an individual’s immigration status. In contrast, a plurality (43%) of Republicans say the question will only be used to count the population, compared to 23% of independents and 18% of Democrats.