Conservatives and the Census debunked

Mike Riggs | Contributor

There’s been no shortage of hooplah today (both gleeful and condemnatory) regarding today’s Wall Street Journal story alleging that conservative states have lower Census response rates thanks to the anti-Census demagoguery of Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Ron Paul. But is it true? Below is a comprehensive list comparing states’ 2008 presidential returns and Census participation rates with the Census lowlights marked in party appropriate blue and red. Keep in mind that the national average for 2010 is 56% as of right now.

Here’s a quick rundown (apologies to Nate Silver fans for the lack of engaging formatting): Of the 22 states that went for McCain, 11 have below average response rates for the Census. Of the 28 states that went for Obama, 12 have below average response rates. So, while 50% of McCain states have below average response rates below the national average of 56%, versus only 39% of Obama states (41% if we count D.C. as a state); in terms of absolute numbers, fewer McCain states have below average response rates (11 McCain vs. 12 Obama). Further complicating the narrative is the fact that a handful of red states that went blue during the presidential election but are still quit conservative, like Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina, have above average response rates.

  1. Alabama – McCain – Census rate: 53 %
  2. Alaska – McCain- Census rate: 42%
  3. Arizona – McCain – Census rate: 52%
  4. Arkansas – McCain – Census rate: 53%
  5. California – Obama – Census rate: 53%
  6. Colorado – Obama – Census rate: 55%
  7. Connecticut – Obama – Census rate: 57%
  8. Delaware – Obama – Census rate: 55%
  9. District of Columbia – Obama – Census rate: 51%
  10. Florida – Obama – Census rate: 53 %
  11. Georgia – McCain – Census rate: 52%
  12. Hawaii – Obama – Census rate: 50%
  13. Idaho – McCain – Census rate: 61 %
  14. Illinois – Obama – Census rate: 60%
  15. Indiana – Obama – Census rate: 64%
  16. Iowa – Obama – Census rate: 67%
  17. Kansas – McCain – Census rate: 60%
  18. Kentucky – McCain – Census rate: 62%
  19. Louisiana – McCain – Census rate: 49%
  20. Maine – Obama – Census rate: 54%
  21. Maryland – Obama – Census rate: 58%
  22. Massachusetts – Obama – Census rate: 57%
  23. Michigan – Obama – Census rate: 63%
  24. Minnesota – Obama – Census rate: 66%
  25. Mississippi – McCain – Census rate: 50%
  26. Missouri – McCain – Census rate: 61%
  27. Montana – McCain – Census rate: 57%
  28. Nebraska – McCain – Census rate: 63%
  29. Nevada – Obama – Census rate 53%
  30. New Hampshire – Obama – Census rate: 56%
  31. New Jersey – Obama – Census rate: 56%
  32. New Mexico – Obama – Census rate: 47%
  33. New York – Obama – Census rate: 50%
  34. North Carolina – Obama – Census rate: 59%
  35. North Dakota – McCain – Census rate: 63%
  36. Ohio – Obama – Census rate: 62%
  37. Oklahoma – McCain – Census rate: 50%
  38. Oregon – Obama – Census rate: 56%
  39. Pennsylvania – Obama – 62%
  40. Rhode Island – Obama – Census rate: 57%
  41. South Carolina – McCain – Census rate: 57%
  42. South Dakota – McCain – Census rate: 65%
  43. Tennessee – McCain – Census rate: 57%
  44. Texas – McCain – Census rate: 48%
  45. Utah – McCain – Census rate: 56%
  46. Vermont – Obama – 53%
  47. Virginia – Obama – 62%
  48. Washington – Obama – Census rate: 55%
  49. West Virginia – McCain – Census rate: 53%
  50. Wisconsin – Obama – Census rate: 69%
  51. Wyoming – McCain – Census rate: 55%

If there’s a takeaway from the above–and I’m not sure that there is, considering what we don’t yet know about the success of the Census Bureau’s marketing program–it’s that the meme that red state Census numbers are bad across the board just isn’t true. That said, the worst red state numbers are significantly worse than the worst blue state numbers. Make of all this what you will.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent at the Plum Line put together the same sort of analysis using The Daily Caller’s most conservative counties listHis results: Of the 20 most conservative counties in the U.S., “only six are returning their census forms at a rate below the national average. Thirteen are above, some by significant margins, and one is tied.”

Tags : michele bachmann ron paul the wall street journal
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