WASHINGTON — Census Bureau director Robert Groves said Monday that he is heartened by the high level of participation so far in the 2010 census, with no indications that large numbers of conservatives were only partially filling out the form or boycotting the government count.
"We can't find empirical support for that," Groves said, regarding evidence of lower participation among conservatives. He noted that perhaps 1 or 2 percent of the 10-question forms returned so far have been incomplete, which is what officials previously anticipated.
Groves' comments, which came at a news conference to urge Americans to mail back their census forms by Friday, followed anecdotal reports in recent weeks that anti-government sentiment might spur a mass boycott among conservatives who consider the census form to be overreaching.
Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, are among those who have been vocal in expressing their intent to refuse to provide information about anything except the number of people in their household, saying that providing anything more would be an invasion of privacy.
"Things are going quite well," Groves said.
With five days left for people to mail back census forms, about 65 percent, or more than 77 million households, have completed and mailed back theirs.
That number puts the U.S. on track to match or surpass the 2000 mail-back rate of 72 percent. The Midwest leads, while the southern and western U.S. and big cities such as New York, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia are lagging.
Groves said most of the lagging areas are either rural or have dense populations, or have more minority and non-English speaking people. That was also the case in 2000.
The Census Bureau is asking people to have their forms postmarked by Friday as it prepares to send more than 600,000 census takers to homes beginning May 1.
Homes that have not yet received census forms can call 866-872-6868 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to submit information by phone or find out where to pick up a form at more than 40,000 help centers around the country.