“Not a Scientific Survey…”

by Andrew Rudalevige on May 21, 2012 · 8 comments

in General Politics,Legislative Politics,Methodology

The House vote to de-fund the American Community Survey, the 3 million-person strong supplementary sample to the US census, has been noted on this site before but perhaps deserves to be highlighted. A useful NY Times primer from the weekend is here (with a h/t to Rob Mickey). The data are used for many purposes, not least for driving funding formulas for the distribution of federal money to states and congressional districts.

In the story, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) complains that the survey “intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators.”  Leaving aside his casual equation of bankers to people (sorry! rimshot here), Monkey Cage readers might be most disturbed by Webster’s assertion that the ACS is an especial waste of money because “in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”

The congressman has at least escaped the danger of being confused with his 19th century senatorial namesake. That Daniel Webster observed in 1825 that “Mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered.”



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