The numbers from a Pew Research survey about American attitudes toward the census are head-scratchers. And not just because nearly 1 in 5 say they’re not likely to take part.
Ninety percent of those surveyed say the census is very or somewhat important. But only 86 percent had ever heard of the census. African Americans are most likely to regard the census as important.
One out of three people don’t know the census is used for congressional representation, almost 40% don’t know it’s used to determine how many government funds get distributed, and 70 percent don’t know participation is required by law. So while most people know it’s important, most people don’t know why.
It’s a damning indictment of the nation’s social studies teachers.
Most of those surveyed who say they likely will not participate, say they don’t have time. It doesn’t appear that Pew asked any of the respondents how much time they think the survey will take.
The answer is: “However long it takes to answer 10 questions.”
1. How many people live here?
2. Anybody else? Relatives? People staying here temporarily, perhaps?
3. Is the house owned free and clear, does have it a mortgage, or do you rent?
4. What’s your telephone number?
5. What’s your name? (and the names of other people living here?)
6. What gender are you and the people who live here?
7. What’s the date of birth of each person?
8. Are any of the people of Hispanic, Spanish, or Latino origin?
9. What is the race of each person?
10. Does anybody occasionally live somewhere else?
None of those, of course, is likely to stump anybody. And the Census Bureau — charitably — figures each person will spend a minute on each question.
Judging by the length of the Pew survey, those responding spent more time participating in that.