Accuracy in Media

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population data, which hinted at possible reapportionment of congressional seats after 2020. The data was met with speculation and analysis in the mainstream media, with multiple outlets and cable news networks suggesting that the upcoming changes could benefit both Republicans and Democrats.

The census projected that the following states would gain at least one congressional seat:

  • Texas (gain 3 seats)
  • Florida (gain 2 seats)
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • North Carolina
  • Montana

On the flip side, the census projected these states to lose a congressional seat:

  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Alabama
  • Illinois
  • California

However, in some census-related articles, the media inserted at least a paragraph on the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question. Politico suggested that Trump’s citizenship question proposal could deter minority participation in the census when it said, “[U]nsuccessful attempts by President Donald Trump and his administration to include a citizenship question on next year’s Census have advocates worried that millions of residents, especially nonwhites, won’t fill out the Census.” It added, “That could negatively impact the count in heavily Latino states like Texas, where Democrats are plotting a political comeback — if they can get a seat at the table in redistricting.”

CNN wrote, “The Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was eventually dropped after the Supreme Court ruling. Outside groups argued the administration was seeking to skew the numbers for Republican political benefit.”

CBS News said that the proposed citizenship question sparked outcry and concerns from opponents that “this would lead to an undercounting of the population in states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants, which in turn could lead to lower apportionment in Congress.”

None of the media outlets above mentioned the reasons behind the initial citizenship question proposal, which would have been fair treatment of the issue. Instead, readers were subjected to a one-sided and biased presentation of the proposal. The media lacked context and fairness in their census data summaries, which could deepen the current distrust in the media that has grown in recent years.

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