Commerce Secretary Locke: Obama Has a Good Relationship With Business Community

Locke says the census will send out surveys in Spanish for the first time.


Any examples?

We have some proposals that we're working on, and they're not ready for announcement yet. But first of all, we need to break down a lot of the barriers and the silos within the Department of Commerce and put them all together, so that a business and an entrepreneur looking for help, [wanting] information, can almost go to one stop, one place, to get all this information. One of the Commerce Department's most important duties is running the census, and the next one will be in 2010. What is the status of sampling, as opposed to actually counting individual people, which has been a big controversy over the years?

We're not doing sampling. The Supreme Court has ruled that statistical sampling is not permitted. So there are absolutely no plans whatsoever, no contemplation whatsoever, of using statistical sampling as we conduct the decennial census. How will you ensure that everyone is counted?

It appears that in every census for the last several decades, it's proven harder and harder because Americans are not returning surveys, whether census surveys or surveys put out by private-sector marketing firms and product information. You buy a car, and the auto dealer sends you a survey: Are you satisfied with it? I mean, people are not responding. I think in the year 2000 census, the mail-in response rate was about 67 percent—which is why we have over a million people that we're going to be hiring to go door to door to get people to fill out their information. We're trying to make it simpler. This year, it's going to be only 10 basic questions. It should only take about 10 minutes to fill out. It's the largest civilian mobilization for the federal government. How will you address language differences that citizens might have?

For the first time, in selected communities we will be sending out questionnaires in both English and Spanish. There will be questionnaires available in other languages as well—Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, a whole host of other languages. Several weeks ago, there was a controversy over whether the census takers will report to you or to the White House, raising questions of politicization. Which will it be?

The White House has assured me that the census reports to me. Press Secretary [Robert] Gibbs has made it very clear that they have no intention of directing and supervising the census. There will be no politicization of the census.

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