Nate Silver thinks yesterday’s news story about significantly lower rates of Census returns in Republican areas of the country is more funny than true:
Here, taken from the Census Bureau’s website, is the percentage of households who have mailed back their Census form in each state. Nationwide, 50 percent of forms have been mailed back to date. Thirteen of 21 red states (states which voted Republican in each of the last three elections) are above that threshold, however, and their average is slightly higher than the nation’s at 51 percent.
There could still be evidence of a partisan shift in participation if it happened that red states were ordinarily quicker to turn in their Census forms and had fallen off their usual pace. But that does not appear to be the case either. In 2000, the red states were actually a bit behind the curve in terms of participation — 70 percent of households turned in their forms without further prompting — versus 72 percent of households nationwide. So, the red states have gone from slightly below-average to slightly above, rather than the other way around.
Republican congressman Patrick McHenry (NC), however, was worried enough to write a piece at The Hill’s Congress blog about the importance of returning the forms:
I’m worried about this year’s census.
I’m not worried about ACORN rigging the count – we already succeeded in kicking them out of the census. I’m not worried about the President’s attempt to run the census out of the White House – we beat that power grab back last year. I’m not even worried about privacy – this year’s 10-question census form is the shortest in memory.
No, what worries me is blatant misinformation coming from otherwise well-meaning conservatives. They are trying to do the right thing, but instead they are helping big government liberals by discouraging fellow conservatives from filling out their census forms.
Zandar, cross-posting at No More Mister Nice Blog, invokes the stopped clock clause (emphasis is Steve’s):
He’s right, for once. (Stopped grandfather clock being right twice a day and what not.) But the truly pathetic part is that McHenry lacks the courage, the will, or the intelligence to ask “Hey, why DO conservatives dislike the Census so much? Why do they not like the federal government?”
The answer to that is the right-wing propaganda states that any government not led by Republicans is inherently evil and corrupt, and then in reality they turn around and prove any government actually led by Republicans is inherently evil and corrupt. People tend not to trust the government as a result.
The fact that McHenry lack the simple self-awareness to see who to blame for this mess (hint: it’s not Obama telling people not to fill out the Census) probably explains why he’s drawn not one, but two teabagger primary challengers who don’t think McHenry is conservative enough, and here, conservative enough means he didn’t stop Obama from passing legislation.
Josh Marshall dubs McHenry’s concern “wingnut blowback“:
Rightwing hullabaloo over the federal Census, particularly the improbable claim that the Census is unconstitutional, is reportedly leading a lot of the most conservative Republicans to refuse to fill out their Census forms, which in theory at least could lead to substantial underrepresentation for these folks in Congress over the next decade — not to mention a lower cut of services from the federal government.
That at least is what Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the ranking Republican on the committee that oversees the Census, thinks is happening. And he’s now taken to Redstate.com itself, Fever Swamp Central, to tell fellow conservatives to do the right thing and fill out their Census forms. As McHenry notes, it’s very hard to reason that the Census can be unconstitutional since it’s one of the only things the constitution not only provides broad powers to do but actually expressly enjoins the federal government to do every decade.
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