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Census Citizenship Question Is Lose-Lose Issue for Democrats

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It's not clear if President Donald Trump can win the legal battle to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, but he's already won in the court of public opinion.


A ScottRasmussen.com poll found that 73% of voters nationwide believe it is appropriate for the U.S. Census Bureau to ask residents whether they are citizens of the United States.

Just because a question might be considered appropriate doesn't mean it should necessarily be asked. But an Economist/YouGov poll found that most Americans (53%) think the citizenship question is one that should be asked by the Census Bureau. Just 32% disagree.

These attitudes make the entire discussion a lose-lose proposition for the Democrats. If the Supreme Court rules against allowing the citizenship question to be asked, Trump will gain a powerful campaign issue to boost his reelection prospects. The importance of Supreme Court nominations will be front and center in the campaign, and the president's supporters will be energized.

On top of that, this topic is closely connected to other issues where Democrats have adopted unpopular positions:

-- The first Democratic debates showed a party perilously close to advocating open borders. Just 21% of voters embrace that position.

-- As Democratic officials assist immigrants crossing the border illegally, 95% of voters believe it's important for everyone entering the country to go through customs and fill out appropriate forms.


-- On the second night of debates, all Democratic presidential candidates signaled support for providing illegal or undocumented immigrants with health care subsidies. Just 26% of voters agree.

The bottom line is that 8 out of 10 voters believe illegal immigration is bad for the United States. Many voters may not be happy with the way Trump is dealing with the border crisis, but they know he sees illegal immigration as a problem. And many have concluded that Democrats don't.

Bad as things will be for Democrats if the citizenship question isn't asked, it could be even worse if it is asked. That's partly because the Democratic nominee would be forced to attack a decision that most Americans support.

But the larger problem for Democrats is that illegal or undocumented immigrants are currently included in the calculations used to award and design congressional districts. If only legal residents were counted, there would be fewer Democrats in Congress. That's because states with high levels of nonlegal residents pick up extra congressional seats at the expense of states with a larger share of legal residents. It also means that urban areas with higher levels of nonlegal residents pick up more seats than they would if only legal residents were counted. Not surprisingly, just 30% of voters think it makes sense to include illegal or undocumented residents when determining representation in Congress. Twice as many -- 62% -- disagree.


If the citizenship question is asked, it will be possible to accurately show the difference between current law and districts drawn on a legal resident-only basis. That is not a discussion the Democrats want to have. In fact, the entire debate about citizenship is something Democrats would love to avoid.

The bottom line is that the more prominent a role this issue plays in 2020 the better things will look for President Trump.

Scott Rasmussen is the publisher of ScottRasmussen.com. He is the author of "The Sun Is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not."

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