NOT REAL NEWS: Obama didn’t end census citizenship question

July 11, 2019 GMT

Former President Barack Obama did not eliminate a question about citizenship from the 2010 census, as blogs and social media posts have falsely reported in recent days.

The inaccurate claims have spread widely online since the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the Trump administration in its push to add the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 form.

The inaccurate posts ask why President Donald Trump needs permission to query households about citizenship status on the 2020 census and blames Obama for scrubbing the question from the 2010 survey.

Obama, however, was not in office when the 2010 census was created.

The Census Bureau finalized questions for the 2010 form in March 2008, the agency’s records show . President George W. Bush was in the Oval Office at the time. Documents from 2008 show the bureau planned to only ask 10 census questions — none of them about citizenship.

The bureau has not asked about citizenship status on the main census form, which is distributed every decade to U.S. households, since 1950. It was eliminated on the 1960 census and, until Trump, there had not been a political push to re-insert the question.

“Nobody proposed it, nobody ever asked for it,” Margo Anderson, a census historian at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, told The Associated Press.

The Census Bureau added the citizenship question in 1970 on the long form questionnaire, which includes dozens of more detailed questions, and was offered every 10 years until 2010 to a sample of U.S. households, Anderson said. The long-form census was scrapped after the 2010 census in response to complaints that the survey was too burdensome and invasive, Anderson added.

The bureau replaced the long-form census with the American Community Survey in 2010. It is sent to a sample of U.S. households every year and asks dozens of questions, such as citizenship status, annual household income and military status.

The constitution requires a census count every 10 years.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: