Texas based Republican pollster David Hill is speaking out in favor of confirming Bob Groves as director of the U.S. Census Bureau and against the mysterious "hold" placed on his nomination by an unnamed Republican Senator. In his weekly column, Hill describes the "furtive opposition" by his own party as "ill-advised" and outlined "a strong Republican case" for Groves' confirmation.
Hill's endorsement of the Groves nomination has some significance, given both the Senate hold and the instantaneous "dismay" that House Republicans expressed about the appointment's supposed "ulterior political agenda."
Tempting as it is to reproduce the entire column, I will confine myself to the two most memorable paragraphs. First, regarding Groves' stellar reputation:
On merit, Bob Groves is an exemplary social scientist. No one is more qualified than he to lead data collection that has such vital implications for commerce and industry, not just political parties. Doesn't Groves's curriculum vitae exude the excellence that Republicans want to bring to governance, especially when the results so profoundly affect entrepreneurship, marketing and business planning?
Second, he provides a personal testimonial:
Groves also has the judgment to handle the job. I once had the good fortune of being a co-consultant with him on a project for the University of Utah. We spent several days there advising that institution's nascent survey research and polling unit. It provided us the opportunity to exchange views about the challenges of polling in a university context. How does the university poll on public policies, topical issues and state elections without interjecting corrosive partisan politics? Bob's counsel was wise and reflected a value-free perspective that will serve him well as Census director. You can be certain that Bob will serve science and the data, not political partisanship. His wholly controversy-free tenure at the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center attests to this conclusion.
I can share a similar story. In the late 1990s, I was lucky to have been a student in two classes Groves taught at the University of Maryland's Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM). At the time, I was very much a partisan Democrat, with a client list that included members of Congress. As an undergraduate, I had professors who took great interest in my political activities and delighted in war stories about the campaign trail (I had taken time off as an undergraduate to work on a presidential campaign). Bob was not among them. If anything, I think he found my political consulting background a bit sleazy.
One of these classes, Introduction to the Federal Statistical System, presented and described the federal statistical agencies (Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.). We spent a lot of time discussing how these agencies could better fulfill their missions while remaining independent of political pressure. It is the memory of those sessions, more than anything else, that makes me want to laugh out loud at the notion of Groves as a partisan appointee bent on "political manipulation." That is exactly backward. Groves is, as Hill puts it, someone certain to "serve science and the data, not political partisanship."
David Hill deserves a lot of credit for bucking some in his own party by standing up for this nomination -- and do read the whole column to get his complete argument. I hope more Republican pollsters follow his example.
Update 2: Not a pollster, but Republican media consultant Mike Murphy says he's "with David Hill."
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