April 12, 2010; Associated Press | For all of the attention devoted by the government to get people to respond to the Census, it is surprising to learn that response rates right now are behind that of 2000, when the Census form was longer and more complicated. In California, the rate is 10 percent behind where they were in the previous decennial census. For example, in Oakland, the response rate as of April 8th was 57 percent compared to 65 percent at the same point in 2000. California officials say that the numbers could have been even worse had not foundations and nonprofits been priming the pump to get citizens to send in their 10-question forms. According to the AP report, the San Francisco Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation have put in $500,000 toward ginning up interest in the census. The report is certainly good news about the energies and effectiveness of funders and nonprofits promoting census participation. But is there a deeper message here? The nation is undergoing a convulsion of anti-government rhetoric, some tied to the opposition to health care reform, some incited by the ubiquitous protests of Tea Party gatherings. Has that anti-government sentiment glommed on to the census so that people hear reverberations of Sarah Palin when they look at questions about the racial/ethnic composition of their families? —Rick Cohen
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