Democrats and the census

I’m thinking about how Republicans are nervous about Obama’s pick to lead the census “because he uses statistical sampling.” It seems curious to me that only Republicans are quoted in the story. You would think that if the problem with statistical sampling is academic in nature, then there would be at least a few Democrats among the hundreds in Congress concerned about it as well.

On one hand, this could simply be an instance of poor reporting that ignored Democrats. But let’s pretend for now that most Democrats don’t have a problem with the math, and instead that the offended Republicans are obfuscating because they know “minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are those most likely to be missed in an actual head count” and that more of them help Democrats in elections. If they are, it’s pretty outrageous of them to think of minorities or the poor as less deserving of representation in a democracy than people who are easier to find.

So, let’s say the Republicans are hiding the “real” reason they don’t want statistical sampling to be used in the census.

But then, the Democrats are quiet, too, and they have an incentive to remain so, just as the Republicans have an political incentive to argue against Robert Groves. Statistical sampling may help Democrats in the 2010 census. By keeping quiet, they run the risk of allowing poor research methods into something as important for the nation as the census — important both in the cost of conducting the census and in its implications for the shape of our Congress, and more.

Where’s the Times in all of this? Silent. They couldn’t even try to bring in some “expert” or other to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of statistical sampling? They couldn’t have brought in some comment from their science writers? Hopefully they will do so at some point. But not addressing whether there’s any debate on the question at all leaves the Democrats with a few free points, at least superficially.

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