Rep. Jim Jordan claims census citizenship question has been asked for 200 years

It hasn't.

Rep. Jim Jordan claims census citizenship question has been asked for 200 years
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) offered a false rationale to defend Trump's proposed census citizenship question. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Thursday embraced President Donald Trump’s apparent plan to ignore the recent Supreme Court ruling blocking his administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and simply plow ahead using an executive order.

Jordan claimed that every single American — aside from congressional Democrats — supported including such a question and falsely claimed that the government had asked it consistently for over 200 years.

“I think it’s a good move,” Jordan told Fox News. “Look, this is just common sense we have been asking the citizenship question on the census in one form or another for 200 years. And you can talk to anyone on the street and ask them ‘do you think we should be asking a citizenship question on the census?’ Every single person you talk to will say yeah, then they will quickly follow that up with a second question and they will say aren’t we doing that already? And then you have to say yes we have been doing it 200 years.”

He added, “Everybody understands it is needed except Democrats in Congress.”

Trump and his administration have been attempting to add a question to the 2020 census asking respondents to say whether or not they are U.S. citizens since the beginning of his tenure. Administration officials claim the question would help enforce the Voting Rights Act; critics say the government tried to add it to the census for racist reasons, in order to effectively gerrymander districts in favor of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.


While the administration and many of its allies have repeatedly made the same false claim that the citizenship question has always been part of the census, this has been debunked. As NPR explained in March, such claims are “inaccurate, incomplete and misleading.”

The last time all households were asked about citizenship was 1950, when the census had a question about birthplace and a follow-up: “If foreign born — Is he naturalized?” In some subsequent years, a small fraction of Americans received a longer form with additional questions, but as the fact-check noted, “… If the 2020 census form does ultimately ask about citizenship status, it will be the first time the U.S. census has directly asked for the citizenship status of every person living in every household.”

Conservative redistricting strategists allegedly encouraged this move because it would discourage minority participation and thus skew the results to favor areas with less diverse populations. The census results are used for both federal funding formulas and the decennial congressional reapportionment. By making areas with larger minority populations seem less populous, they would guarantee less representation for those areas.

The administration has denied that it heeded this advice when considering a citizenship question and previously sought to downplay this rationale in court.

However, those explanations were rejected by the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 ruling last month. Trump has since admitted his intent, and will reportedly attempt to simply bypass the ruling by executive order on Thursday afternoon.

Conservatives and the Trump administration have repeatedly lied to voters to make them think that the citizenship question has been a fact of life since America’s founding, so it’s hardly surprising that many of the people Jordan meets on the street may be under the impression that this is standard census fare. Even so, an April poll found just 60% popular support for the idea — well below Jordan’s hyperbolic claim of unanimous approval.


That survey was conducted before the conservative-majority Supreme Court accused the administration of a “contrived” explanation for its approach.