President Clinton last week defended the sampling plan the U.S. Census Bureau has proposed for the 2000 census.
According to news reports, in a speech in Houston, Clinton said, “All of us just want an accurate count.” He said the statistical sampling procedure the bureau has proposed is an “attempt to make sure that every American is really and literally counted. It's about gathering fair and accurate information.”
Sampling determines the number and characteristics of people not reached by more conventional methods, such as door-to-door interviews and questionnaires. The administration supports the procedure as a way of compensating for the decline in the number of census respondents.
Statistical sampling extrapolates the characteristics of a large group by surveying a representative sample. The National Academy of Sciences, Washington, which was asked by Congress to examine census procedures and suggest changes, has recommended that the survey be augmented with statistical samples.
The outcome continues to concern direct marketers as Republican legislators criticize the Census Bureau's sampling plans. Some in the GOP think the procedure could be subject to political motivations as minorities — who generally vote for Democrats — also are traditionally underestimated in census counts. However, Clinton said endorsing sampling is a way to ensure accuracy, not an effort to boost Democratic fortunes.
“I think it's quite unfortunate that some in Congress have so vociferously opposed sampling, because improving the census shouldn't be a partisan issue,” Clinton said. “It's not about politics, it's about people.”