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A day after President Donald Trump called off his bid to add a question to the 2020 census asking about U.S. citizenship status, radio host Rush Limbaugh slammed Democrats for opposing the question.
"The real controversy here is, who took the citizenship question off of the census, and why?" Limbaugh said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends." "It would seem to me that this kind of attention should have been asked when somebody in the Obama regime decided to get rid of it."
Limbaugh had his facts twisted, however, as the citizenship question did not disappear entirely under former President Barack Obama.
That’s what our state partners at PolitiFact North Carolina determined when they checked a similar claim from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in April.
Some things have changed since then. The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s stated reason for including a citizenship question in June.
On July 11, Trump ordered all federal agencies to hand over to the Commerce Department any information on the number of non-citizens in the United States.
What hasn’t changed is the history of the census citizenship question.
The census has been conducted every decade since 1790 to get a national population count used to determine the distribution of seats in Congress.
A citizenship question first showed up in the census in 1820, and again in 1830, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 1870, the question was asked of males ages 21 and older, and it has appeared in some form as a question for all respondents every decade since 1890, with the exception of 1960.
But the last time the Census Bureau asked every household about citizenship was in 1950, when census workers knocking on doors wrote down where each person was born and asked as a follow-up, "If foreign born — is he naturalized?"
After 1950, the 1960 census inquired about place of birth but not about citizenship.
Then, beginning in 1970, the Census Bureau began distributing two different questionnaires: A short form sent to most households and a long form sent only to about 1 in 6 households.
Importantly, only the long form asked about citizenship, meaning just a sample of households actually saw a citizenship question each time the census went out between 1970 through 2000.
The 2010 census was the first census administered under Obama’s watch, and it ditched the long form, using only a 10-question short-form questionnaire that did not ask about citizenship.
But that doesn’t mean the citizenship question was eliminated by the Obama administration.
By 2010, the Census Bureau was already asking about citizenship through its American Community Survey, an annual survey launched in 2005 that goes out to about 3.5 million households every year as a means of collecting demographic and socioeconomic information on an ongoing basis.
Limbaugh’s claim that "somebody in the Obama regime decided to get rid of it" is misleading, since Obama’s Census Bureau asked about citizenship via the ACS, which effectively replaced the long-form census as the survey sent to a sample of households.
For the record, the ACS has asked a citizenship question every year since 2010, as well.
Limbaugh said "somebody in the Obama regime decided to get rid of" the citizenship question.
A citizenship question hasn’t been asked of all U.S. households since 1950. Between 1970 and 2000, the question was limited to the long-form census questionnaire, which went out to only 1 in 6 households.
In 2010, the Obama administration ended the entire long-form version. The Census Bureau had already begun sending the question, since 2005, to about 3.5 million households by way of the American Community Survey.
The statement is not accurate. We rate it False.
Fox News, "Rush Limbaugh on citizen question controversy, Democrat division, Betsy Ross flag flap," July 12, 2019
C-Span, President Trump Remarks on Census Citizenship Question, July 11, 2019
Supreme Court of the United States, Department of Commerce, et. al. v. New York, June 27, 2019
United States Census Bureau, "1790 Overview,"accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, "History: 2000 Census of Population and Housing," December 2009
United States Census Bureau, "Questions Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey,"March 2018
United States Census Bureau, 1950 Census of Population and Housing, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, 1960 Census of Population and Housing, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, 1970 Census of Population and Housing, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, United States Census 2000, long form questionnaire, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, United States Census 2000, short form questionnaire, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, United States Census 2010 questionnaire, accessed April 2, 2019
United States Census Bureau, "American Community Survey (ACS) Questionnaire Archive," accessed April 2, 2019
PolitiFact North Carolina, "Meadows wrongly claims Obama removed census citizenship question in 2010," April 4, 2019
PolitiFact, "What you need to know about the Census’ citizenship question," March 28, 2018
PolitiFact, "2020 Census citizenship question awaits Supreme Court review," April 1, 2019
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