Project 21 New Visions

 

Jeffery Temple

Disconnect on Accuracy Doesn't Add Up


by Jeffery Temple (bio)

Remember how important every vote was in the 2000 election?  Back then, and in subsequent close elections, the message has been that every vote counts.

Imagine that those votes were not actually "counted," that government instead estimated the outcomes based on a sample of ballots.

Imagine the outcry.  Imagine the potential for abuse.

Yet the government is now moving toward doing exactly that during the upcoming 2010 census. 

Census data is used to draw congressional districts, make federal spending decisions and apportion the Electoral College.  At issue is the use of statistical sampling, in which estimations would be used to determine a population count rather than trying to find and count every person.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled statistical sampling could not be used to assign seats in the House of Representatives, but that statistical adjustments could be used to redraw congressional boundaries.  With the nomination of Robert M. Groves, a proponent of sampling, to lead the Census Bureau, it seems the Obama Administration is embracing sampling.

This leaves many fearful of the potential for political tampering.

A politicized census could perpetuate one party's hold on political power.  White House spokesman Ben LaBolt raised concern when he said in February that President Obama wanted the Census Bureau director "to work closely with White House senior management."

Among those likely to usurp authority normally vested in the Commerce Secretary is White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who, as a congressman, said about the upcoming census:  "If you think redistricting is always partisan and political which it is... it's going to be on steroids this time."

Liberal politicians seem to have a double-standard on the simple practice of counting.  When it's more advantageous to achieve their goals by relying on something less accurate, they seem all for it.

Apart from the census, there is opposition on Capitol Hill to Arbitron's new Portable People Meter (PPM) used for radio ratings.

A PPM is a small beeper-like receiver participants wear that detects and logs all radio stations a participant comes in contact with throughout the day.  With the PPM, Arbitron receives detailed, unfiltered information about listener habits.

The PPM replaces manual written "diaries" Arbitron previously relied upon.  It is suggested those diaries were influenced by personal bias; with participants boosting claimed listening habits for their favorite stations. 

This new PPM technology removes potential bias in recording listening patterns.

Ratings are important to advertisers, and the PPM can provide an accurate assessment of who is listening to what.  For example, the advent of the PPM found that WGTS, a small gospel station in Washington, D.C., actually had a larger and more loyal audience than almost every other station in town.  The first PPM-based ratings cycle rocketed WGTS, a station getting most of its operating budget from listener donations that was almost sold months before, to sixth in the 40-station Washington market.

Believing the PPM system under-represents minority-owned stations, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) wants a Federal Communications Commission investigation, stating, "Arbitron must provide a service that accurately and consistently measures listening preferences and habits of all audiences regardless of color, race, gender, culture or socioeconomic status."

Nonetheless, Sam Rogers, a CBS Radio executive and manager of two minority stations which have declined in ratings after the PPM was instituted, admits, "We have to have this kind of accountability for our advertisers.  At the end of the day it's legit."

A system providing the most accurate data is the most desirable.  When liberals are dissatisfied, however, they seem to blame the "methodology."

Whether it is the census or radio ratings, it is in Americans best interest to use accurate and truthful information so informed decisions can be made.  Liberals would apparently rather provide less accurate, but more convenient, data to perpetuate their own agendas.

Americans don't want convenient truths: they want the real thing.  Americans want their voices heard... not estimated.

#  #  #

Jeffery Temple is a research associate for the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


 Center for Environmental Justice

Donate | Subscribe | Search | About Project 21 | What's New | Blog | Project 21 | NCPPR