Republicans are in a bit of a bind regarding the U.S. Census. In the past, they have opposed “statistical sampling”, which would readjust the Census results to account for undersampled groups, such as the poor and minorities, which typically vote Democratic. In fact, congressional Republicans made Obama’s Census director pinky-swear not to do this, and he did:
Robert Groves, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, is an expert on statistical sampling, the practice of extrapolating a larger population from a smaller slice of it. Proponents of sampling say it helps produce a more accurate tally of the population, especially when it comes to traditionally undercounted groups, such as minorities living in urban areas.
But many Republican lawmakers insist that sampling violates the Constitution, which calls for an “actual Enumeration” of the population every 10 years. Critics also say the use of sampling would politicize the traditionally nonpolitical Census Bureau.
Dr. Groves, during his confirmation hearing Friday, told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he wouldn’t use sampling to adjust the 2010 count. Asked whether he would consider using it in a future census, he said: “There are no plans to do that for 2020.”
Of course, Republicans being Republicans, this wasn’t good enough. Many Republicans, and their conservative media Wurlitzer (or is it the other way around?), denigrated the entire concept of the Census:
Prominent right-wing voices decided last year that the U.S. census was not to be trusted. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said the process could lead to “internment camps.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) called the census “invasive.” Fox News’ Glenn Beck’s suggested Americans may not be comfortable with “ACORN members” collecting information. Radio host Neal Boortz said some census information is “designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers.”
Unfortunately for Republicans, not only did their political televangelists use this ridiculousness to move product, but the rubes actually took it seriously! Uh-oh:
Polling by the Pew Research Center finds Democrats are more likely than other Americans to view the census as “very important” to the country. Seventy-six percent of Democrats call this year’s count very important, compared with 61 percent of Republicans and independents.
In Texas, some of the counties with the lowest census return rates are among the state’s most Republican, including Briscoe County in the Panhandle, 8 percent; King County, near Lubbock, 5 percent; Culberson County, near El Paso, 11 percent; and Newton County, in deep East Texas, 18 percent. Most other counties near the bottom of the list are heavily Hispanic counties along the Texas-Mexico border.
There is a reason for the enthusiasm gap on the census: A number of prominent conservative and libertarian Republicans have been blasting the census for months.
It’s estimated that each undercounted person will cost Texas $12,000. Part of me wants to argue for fairplay–the Census is very important and should be completed (and if you haven’t done so yet, do it. Seriously, stop reading this, and do it right now). On the other hand, it is refreshing to see the blowback from all of the rightwing lunacy: they’re intentionally screwing themselves over,
no ACORN needed. Not only does the Census help determine funding formulas, but it’s also used to apportion House representatives.
If this pattern holds, I wonder if Republicans will suddenly see the virtues in statistical sampling….