"Contrary to historical trends," the Houston Chronicle reports, "some of the toughest challenges" facing the agency responsible for carrying out the 2010 Census are not "counting the traditionally undercounted groups such as African-Americans and Latinos. Instead, a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against 'Big Brother' in Washington."
For months, right-wing activists and politicians have been criticizing the Census and urging people not to return their census forms. (See several examples below.) The anti-census rhetoric grew so heated that three Republican congressmen publicly chastised fellow Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) last year for declaring that she would not fill out her census form.
"Boycotting the constitutionally mandated Census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country," said Reps. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) and John Mica (Fla.), members of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives.
Even Fox News host Glenn Beck found Bachmann's anti-census stance baffling.
But evidence suggests that some conservatives are sympathetic to the message. The Chronicle reports:
As of Friday afternoon, only 27 percent of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms -- well below the national average of 34 percent -- according to computer data from the U.S. Census Bureau. [...]
In Texas, some of the counties with the lowest census return rates are among the state's most Republican, including Briscoe County in the Panhandle, 8 percent; King County, near Lubbock, 5 percent; Culberson County, near El Paso, 11 percent; and Newton County, in deep East Texas, 18 percent.
A national poll by the Pew Research Center found that though very high numbers of self-identified Republicans and Democrats said they plan on completing the census, "more Democrats than Republicans or independents think the census is very important for the country (76% among Democrats, 61% among Republicans and independents)."
The stakes are high: census data is used to allocate billions in federal funds, divvy up new congressional districts, and assign Electoral College votes that determine a state's influence in presidential elections. Citing the Chronicle story on Monday, NBC's First Read asked, "Could Republicans' anti-government sentiments end up costing them congressional seats after the Census?"
Below, some of the crazier Census-related conspiracy theories. (For an opposing view, check out this U.S. Census Bureau explainer, "How It Affects The Nation", or this piece by HowStuffWorks.com called "How The Census Works."
One of the most infamous Census conspiracy theories was spread by Rep. Michele Bachmann -- that the Census lays the groundwork for World War II-style internment camps. "If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps," she told Fox News.
Bachmann and other conservative Republicans have voiced concerns that ACORN workers will be visiting people's homes. In an interview Wednesday with The Washington Times' "America's Morning News," the Minnesota Republican said the questions have become "very intricate, very personal" and that she feared ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, would be part of the U.S. Census Bureau's door-to-door information collection efforts. "I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," she said. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."
Anti-tax activist Neal Boortz thinks the Census is being used to take away your property and give it to the "moochers," reports Media Matters: Neal Boortz told a caller, "I received a census form the other day asking me a whole bunch of questions about my small business. I threw it in the trash. I'm not going to answer it. None of their damn business." He later added that "the federal government and the state government, they have a legitimate reason for knowing how many people live where. They have no legitimate reason for knowing anything else. The rest of the information is -- most of the rest of the information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They're looters."
Some fringe conservatives think President Obama's in-school census kits are a way of indoctrinating children -- just like Hitler. "ABC stands for Activate Barack’s Cadre!" conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote.
The American Daily Review suggests that the Census GPS is a way to help United Nations personnel round people up after Obama lets foreign troops control the country. "After all, with Barack Obama desiring to decrease the number of folks in the military, and with forces committed worldwide, we may not have sufficient military forces at home to deal with a rising national emergency. If the government decided to rely on foreign troops, perhaps United Nations personnel, most of which may not understand the street signs, much less know the lay of the land, they could use GPS devices to direct them to your front door," the site says.
Of course, the adoption of GPS by census-takers could also be a way of targeting "undesirables" for missile-drone attacks. A writer posted at InfoWars.com: "Exactly why does the Census Department need to know the precise GPS location of every household in the USA? Of course, the answer is they don't. The next question is who does and why do they need that GPS locator? Like I said before, GPS is a military technology that has certain non lethal applications. GPS can either be used to locate a missing hiker on Mount Hood, or it can be used to target a Predator drone missile. The choice is all in the use of the technology. Given the history of the US Federal government, at Waco with the Branch Davidians, at Ruby Ridge among others, you will excuse me that I am not buying the Census story."
Michelle Malkin suggests that Obama aims to use the Census to undermine border control and give "the Left" a "permanent ruling majority" with the help of undocumented immigrants.
A video explaining how communities use Census data, produced by the US Census Bureau.