Great news: 2020 Census to be an Internet poll

posted at 1:01 pm on March 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Hey, what could possibly go wrong with this?

Add paper census questionnaires to the long list of everyday items becoming quaint vestiges of tired technology, like landline phones, television armoires and butterfly ballots.

The Census Bureau already has started offering an Internet option to the 250,000 households it selects every month at random for the American Community Survey. Since becoming available in January, more than half the responses have come in on a secure site that requires codes and PIN numbers.

The bureau expects to use the Internet — plus smart phones and other technologies yet to be invented — for the next decen­nial census, in 2020.

I don’t think I’d call landline phones a “vestige,” since they still represent 63% of the American market, at least as of the end of 2011.  More people are opting for wireless-only, but they’re still outnumbered 2:1. Half of all households have both, actually. Ironically, this is exactly what we’d expect to find from Census Bureau data, although this came from last June’s CDC’s National Health Information Survey instead.

Those of us with some experience in Internet surveys may laugh at the prospect of holding the decennial Census through this medium with any confidence level, but the Census Bureau says they have little choice.  Congress won’t give them more money to poll each house in the old-fashioned way, so they need to find ways to make the process more efficient.  That only works to a point, though:

The households selected for the survey still get their first contact the old-fashioned way, with a mailed letter telling them the questionnaire is on its way. Then they receive a letter telling them how to respond over the Internet. If they don’t use that option, they get a 28-page paper form a few weeks later.

The questions are listed on a green-tinted Web page that takes roughly 40 minutes to complete, with 24 questions on housing alone and up to 48 questions about every household resident.

If they want to save costs, why bother with the initial letter telling people the form is on its way? Why not just skip directly to Step 2, explaining how to answer the questionnaire on line?  The Census Bureau gets a ton of earned media from national and local broadcasters talking about the process, so it won’t exactly be a surprise in 2020 when the instructions show up.  This process sounds like the equivalent of a horrible trend at one of my former workplaces of holding pre-meeting meetings in order to set an agenda.

To get back to my original point, what could go wrong?  Here’s an entirely unrelated article from Bloomberg that will have absolutely nothing to do with a possible outcome of that question, I’m sure. Trust me!

For decades, U.S.-owned technology giants have set up state-of-the-art factories, laboratories and training programs in China. Their aim was to use a super-cheap, lightly regulated production base to supply Chinese and world markets, and to harness Chinese scientific talent. Greater profits were the top priority, but the companies also claimed that a more computer- and Internet-savvy China would become more peaceful and democratic.

Chinese authorities demanded some technology as the price of access to their market. Yet most transfers were made voluntarily to Chinese partners. China’s hacking prowess makes clear that, as critics warned, the government and military benefited from widespread sharing of know-how directly applicable to spying, sabotage and theft of business secrets.

Paradoxically, the first known victims of China’s U.S.- enabled cybercapacities were Chinese citizens. These include dissidents who were tracked with technology sold by Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) (YHOO), as well as ordinary people whose online content has been censored with products provided by Microsoft Corp (MSFT) (MSFT) and Google Inc (GOOG) (GOOG).

Those four companies, and many others, still supply official Chinese customers with capabilities easily used against U.S. government or business targets. (Google itself has repeatedly complained about attacks from China-based hackers.) These companies also continue to strengthen the technology base of a nation designated by the Defense Department as the greatest potential foreign threat to U.S. security.

Cisco, for example, says that its goals include maintaining “close relationships with government” and notes that the regime’s “good will” is important for operations, “enforcement,” sales and policy. IBM touts its capacity to “improve the way government” works, “solve problems and challenges in public administration,” and aid China’s “drive to build a harmonious society.” Intel Corp. (INTC) says its mission includes “strategic technology collaborations” with the government. Microsoft considers itself “a partner in developing the local IT ecosystem with the Chinese government.”

Who will be the US government’s partners on this program, and how secure will they make this process?  When Rhode Island ends up with 62 House seats and we find that Nebraska has the greatest concentration of shipyard workers in the US, well, we might be asking ourselves a few questions about the wisdom of this decision.

Let’s take a poll on the concept! I’m sure the result will be scientifically unassailable:


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ROFL

Your government at work, and you want THESE guys to control your healthcare?

Bishop on March 29, 2013 at 1:03 PM

LOLOLOLOL @ Ron Paul

The Notorious G.O.P on March 29, 2013 at 1:06 PM

The potential for fraud is endless, and a lot is at stake in the census. Think of all the House seats Democrats could gain through reapportionment based on fraudulent returns. Think of all the federal resources that could be diverted to Democrat strongholds.

steebo77 on March 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Maybe we should take a page out of the Dem playbook and do some cheating. Maybe we can bump the red-state populations of some Western states past Cali, NY, and Illinois.

Bitter Clinger on March 29, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Add paper census questionnaires to the long list of everyday items becoming quaint vestiges of tired technology, like landline phones, television armoires and butterfly ballots.

What if you don’t have a computer and/or your basic Obamaphone with only limited text capability? Seems like this is one of those “minorities hit hardest” ideas.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:10 PM

LOLOLOLOL @ Ron Paul

The Notorious G.O.P on March 29, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Hey, whatever the problem, Ron Paul is not the answer.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:11 PM

40 minutes to fill out a survey? WTH?

stvnscott on March 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

of course I went Ron Paul, I also lie about my race on every paper census I’ve ever turned in….they lie, we lie, gay is the new way

DanMan on March 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

What will those who don’t have a computer do? Will big bro ‘give’ them one and pay for their service?
L

letget on March 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

The “answers” won’t matter. Those reviewing the “answers” are already under orders to register 68% of respondents as being:

[X] Homosexual, desiring to marry partner.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

If they don’t use that option, they get a 28-page paper form a few weeks later.

That 28 page form whether paper or on-line will have only one question answered. How many people live in the house. Then I will make sure my front gate, 300 yards from the house, is locked every day for the rest of the calendar year. That way they won’t come knocking on my door.

chemman on March 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

NOTE – Well, someone had to get the thread going in the right direction.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 29, 2013 at 1:15 PM

The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope. – Karl Marx

Dan_Yul on March 29, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Pink money, pink money, pink money!!!

Resist We Much on March 29, 2013 at 1:15 PM

letget on March 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Local schools and libraries will be required to let them use theirs to log on provided they know how to use a computer.

chemman on March 29, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Maybe we should take a page out of the Dem playbook and do some cheating. Maybe we can bump the red-state populations of some Western states past Cali, NY, and Illinois.

Bitter Clinger on March 29, 2013 at 1:08 PM

I’d be up for reporting some of these race-based districts a lot more white. How sweet would it be to carve Clyburn and Jackson Lee out of existence?

crrr6 on March 29, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Your government at work, and you want THESE guys to control your healthcare?

I absolutely do not, but far too many indoctrinated idiots do. Especially if they get it all FREE!

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 1:18 PM

Actually, the census should be limited to number of citizens in households strictly to determine needs for congressional representation. Period.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Just look at who’s driving this bus and you can see where this is going…

DamnYankee on March 29, 2013 at 1:21 PM

I’d be up for reporting some of these race-based districts a lot more white. How sweet would it be to carve Clyburn and Jackson Lee out of existence?

crrr6 on March 29, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Yep. And California and New York get cut to 1 House seat apiece.

“Bye-bye, Pelosi!!”.

Bitter Clinger on March 29, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Does this mean that there will be less semi-skilled people knocking on doors as temporary census workers? Or do they simply go out with a laptop to help people register how many people are in their household, marital status, and of course the number of weapons of war they have.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Voter ID disenfranchises minorities but a 40 minute online survey requiring the use of a computer does not?

Ditkaca on March 29, 2013 at 1:23 PM

I’d be up for reporting some of these race-based districts a lot more white. How sweet would it be to carve Clyburn and Jackson Lee out of existence?

crrr6 on March 29, 2013 at 1:17 PM

And new for 2020, the creation of gay-based districts!

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM

A few years ago the Dallas city council set up an internet poll to vote on a new name for a street, problem was no one knew about it except for some hispanic activist groups who flooded the poll with votes to name it after Cesar Chavez. Well, imagine everyone’s surprise when they wake up one day to find a major road in their city was going to be named after everyone’s favorite communist. Much arguing ensued and eventually the city settled on a compromise to name a different, less important road after Chavez, but it was a good example of how people can game internet surveys.

clearbluesky on March 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

This won’t happen — Democrats will argue that conducting the survey over the internet will discriminate against inner-city residents, who don’t have internet access (and thus, won’t be counted).

Revenant on March 29, 2013 at 1:33 PM

A few years ago the Dallas city council set up an internet poll to vote on a new name for a street, problem was no one knew about it except for some hispanic activist groups who flooded the poll with votes to name it after Cesar Chavez. Well, imagine everyone’s surprise when they wake up one day to find a major road in their city was going to be named after everyone’s favorite communist. Much arguing ensued and eventually the city settled on a compromise to name a different, less important road after Chavez, but it was a good example of how people can game internet surveys.

clearbluesky on March 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Also shows how activist groups can mobilize the sheeple for their own agenda.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:36 PM

And new for 2020, the creation of gay-based districts!

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Amazingly, I think that’s more of a likelihood than a joke.

crrr6 on March 29, 2013 at 1:36 PM

This won’t happen — Democrats will argue that conducting the survey over the internet will discriminate against inner-city residents, who don’t have internet access (and thus, won’t be counted).

The survey can be done by using the free ObamaSmartphones, and eventually free ObamaTablets distributed to inner-city residents, including free wifi access.

Problem solved.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

This is inevitable. And by 2019 when they actually begin the survey, more and more people will be cellphone access only. Procedures change.

Old folks around here tell me of the time when everyone paid their city water bill by physically going town to city hall and linining up in person to pay every month. Then in the 1970s you could mail in the payments. Then in the early 2000s you could start paying online.

Times change.

AngusMc on March 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Amazingly, I think that’s more of a likelihood than a joke.

crrr6 on March 29, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Honestly, I wasn’t in full snark mode when I suggested that. I mean it seems inevitable if we are going to legitimize sodomite relationships and declare gays to be a protected class like blacks or Hispanics, why wouldn’t there be a push for gay-based constituencies?

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:39 PM

The survey can be done by using the free ObamaSmartphones, and eventually free ObamaTablets distributed to inner-city residents, including free wifi access.

Problem solved.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Yeah, with pre-filled answers provided.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Democrats will argue that conducting the survey over the internet will discriminate against inner-city residents, who don’t have internet access (and thus, won’t be counted).

Revenant on March 29, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Well, you’ve got to admit that it is pretty hard to count the folks living under a bridge somewhere through online polling. And to be clear, I’m talking about the homeless and not our resident trolls.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:43 PM

RP!

RDE2010 on March 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Why do we need to take a census at all? Every American Citizen is issued a Social Security Number, when they die, that number is removed from the active database. Just run a spreadsheet tallying the number of legitimate active social security numbers.

SWalker on March 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

clearbluesky on March 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

I remember that! We have some warehouses on Industrial (the old name). When they had the stakeholder meetings, all the little Hispanic commies had matching t-shirts and professionally printed signs. They had homeless people wearing them and testifying how great the Chavez name would be for the area. The biz owners sat on one side calmly until the commies claimed that we the biz owners had “intimidated” all the people on Industrial into voting down the Chavez name. That woke us up and pissed us off!

We all just wanted the street to be named after something to do with THE RIVER considering that the dumb arses in Dallas were spending $1B+ on the riverfront!

mrsmwp on March 29, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Also shows how activist groups can mobilize the sheeple for their own agenda.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:36 PM

No kidding. None of us even knew about the online survey until the results came out. The commie in charge just happened to be married to a city council person and had access to info. He got all his La Raza friends to fill it out over and over again.

mrsmwp on March 29, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Every American Citizen is issued a Social Security Number, when they die, that number is removed from the active database. Just run a spreadsheet tallying the number of legitimate active social security numbers.

SWalker on March 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Silly! How do the Dems get the illegal trespassers counted that way? They probably are using an SSN but it isn’t theirs.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Can’t they count us by drone yet?

TexasDan on March 29, 2013 at 1:51 PM

The fraction of the inquiries using the long form provide information that is used for a lot of purposes other than redistricting. Those could be done via internet. The short forms which round out the data could be done in the more traditional manner and be used for redistricting.

KW64 on March 29, 2013 at 1:51 PM

The questions are listed on a green-tinted Web page that takes roughly 40 minutes to complete, with 24 questions on housing alone and up to 48 questions about every household resident.

And if you refuse to answer their questions you’re in trouble.

I still can’t believe how many “conservatives” out there supported the last Stasi-run census. The Constitution says Congress has to conduct a census every ten years-doesn’t say we have to cooperate.

All they have to do is make a contract with Spokeo and they’ll get all the information they need…but the point is to have them assert their authority over us.

Sheep.

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 29, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Can’t they count us by drone yet?

TexasDan on March 29, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Don’t know about that, but they can certainly subtract us by drone.

Bitter Clinger on March 29, 2013 at 1:55 PM

The biz owners sat on one side calmly until the commies claimed that we the biz owners had “intimidated” all the people on Industrial into voting down the Chavez name. That woke us up and pissed us off!

mrsmwp on March 29, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Yeah these situations always end up in charges of racism. When I was living in Michigan, activists wanted to re-name a major street for MLK. Nevermind Dr. King had never been to the town and there is already a school, park, and statue named after MLK. Well, businesses objected due to the cost of the name change. Homeowners along all but most inner-city portion of the road objected in a majority. Yet activists essentially said re-name this street or you hate black people. In the end they put up commemorative street signs but the old name remained.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Voter ID disenfranchises minorities but a 40 minute online survey requiring the use of a computer does not?

Ditkaca on March 29, 2013 at 1:23 PM

*applause*

bazil9 on March 29, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Why do we need to take a census at all? Every American Citizen is issued a Social Security Number, when they die, that number is removed from the active database. Just run a spreadsheet tallying the number of legitimate active social security numbers.
SWalker on March 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Exactly. Between tax returns and SSNs there has got to be a better way to count our population than census forms.

It would be nice to think that voter registration could be a reliable source as well. Not rational, but nice.

TexasDan on March 29, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Democrats will argue that conducting the survey over the internet will discriminate against inner-city residents, who don’t have internet access (and thus, won’t be counted).

Revenant on March 29, 2013 at 1:33 PM

that’s the easy part. They will have all the bugs of that process worked out because the o.care application will be the testbed. And remember the O.care system will have ‘assisters’ which will help people (barry will pay the assisters 58 bucks a pop)

so, by 2020 we will have a nice little cottage industry (think ACORN) that will go house to house, block by block, helping people.

where it will be ‘interesting’ is when we get a shiny new Internet Voting System. I see something like a system integrated with the O.care and DHS databases.

We know how many voting age people are in your household, and their citizenship status, and citizenship status…so gather your houshold around and VOTE!…fun and easy…oh, if you don’t have a computer, we will GIVE you one…. and please let us know if you need an assister

r keller on March 29, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The potential for fraud is endless, and a lot is at stake in the census. Think of all the House seats Democrats could gain through reapportionment based on fraudulent returns. Think of all the federal resources that could be diverted to Democrat strongholds.

steebo77 on March 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Gee, you would almost think they were doing this on purpose, like cynical power-hungry bastards.

squint on March 29, 2013 at 2:08 PM

bazil9 on March 29, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Hey You… Good morning… err, afternoon… or something… ;)

SWalker on March 29, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Hey You… Good morning… err, afternoon… or something… ;)

SWalker on March 29, 2013 at 2:09 PM
Holla back-afternoon Walker ;)

A good Good Friday to you.

bazil9 on March 29, 2013 at 2:12 PM

The Census Bureau already has started offering an Internet option to the 250,000 households it selects every month at random for the American Community Survey.

Actually, the census should be limited to number of citizens in households strictly to determine needs for congressional representation. Period.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 1:19 PM

My thought, exactly. Why are we doing this and how was it authorized and by who? We need to UN-DO this and fire some bureaucrats. Wonder what it costs?!

jffree1 on March 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Voter ID disenfranchises minorities but a 40 minute online survey requiring the use of a computer does not?

there will be an army of volunteers making sure those people are counted. at least in blue states.

bannor on March 29, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Anyone else wonder what sort of things will be included in the terms and conditions that you’ll agree to without thinking when you fill out your online census form?

hawksruleva on March 29, 2013 at 3:28 PM

there will be an army of volunteers making sure those people are counted. at least in blue states.

bannor on March 29, 2013 at 2:56 PM

I’m sure red states will want to under-report their populations. That always does wonders for your Congressional representation, and government funding for Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, etc.

hawksruleva on March 29, 2013 at 3:30 PM

They have more than enough money. Just another bloated government bureau.

TallDave on March 29, 2013 at 3:30 PM

That 28 page form whether paper or on-line will have only one question answered. How many people live in the house. Then I will make sure my front gate, 300 yards from the house, is locked every day for the rest of the calendar year. That way they won’t come knocking on my door.

chemman on March 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I found that a rattlesnake curled up by my front door worked very well to scare off the last census worker who knocked on my door (true story).

AZCoyote on March 29, 2013 at 3:32 PM

No kidding. None of us even knew about the online survey until the results came out. The commie in charge just happened to be married to a city council person and had access to info. He got all his La Raza friends to fill it out over and over again.

mrsmwp on March 29, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Ahh, that’s right, i couldn’t remember how the activist groups had found out about it but yeah, that was how, inside info.

clearbluesky on March 29, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Yeah, with pre-filled answers provided.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Exactly. Otherwise it takes too much time away from enjoying texting, tweeting, music apps, and mindless web browsing.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Anyone else wonder what sort of things will be included in the terms and conditions that you’ll agree to without thinking when you fill out your online census form?

The terms and conditions will include mandatory government intrusion into our personal lives, carefully monitoring the decisions we make so the undesirable ones can be wisely and lovingly be corrected or blocked from access and use.

hawkeye54 on March 29, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Hey, whatever the problem, Ron Paul is not the answer.

Happy Nomad on March 29, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Speaking of cranky, eccentric old presidential candidates from Texas, isn’t this govt-by-internet Ross Perot’s idea?

itsnotaboutme on March 29, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Hotair establishmentarian takes shot out of nowhere at Ron Paul. Ehhh, statists gonna state.

iwasbornwithit on March 29, 2013 at 10:19 PM

I received a letter telling me how to answer the Community Survey on Wednesday. I have no intention of answering any darn thing they send on the internet. The letter explains if I don’t respond in a few weeks I will receive a paper questionnaire and, indeed, it does say it will take about 40 minutes to fill out.

I’ll report back when I get my paper ballot/er, questionnaire.

Greyledge Gal on March 30, 2013 at 9:40 AM

I mean, like, really . . . WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?????

georgeofthedesert on March 31, 2013 at 12:02 PM