The Census and The American Community Survey: Do You Really Have to Answer All Those Questions?


On two different occasions I’ve been contacted by people who have received the American Community Survey (formerly known as the long form census). These people felt their privacy was being violated by the intrusive questions in the survey and that the federal government did not have the right to demand such information of them. They were being hounded by census bureau workers, threatened with fines and in one case even had a bureau employee show up at their church to serve them with papers. These people turned to me, as a Constitution Party state chairman, wanting to know if the survey really is mandatory and whether they would indeed be fined for not complying. Knowing that millions of other Americans are being confronted with this same dilemma, I decided to compile my findings as a public resource on the matter.


It all began in 1787 with the drafting of the United States Constitution where Article I, Section 2 calls for an “enumeration” to be made once every ten years for the apportioning of representatives and direct taxes among the several states.

The nation’s first census was conducted in 1790 and consisted of only the name of the head of household and the number of other residents – just what you’d expect for a simple enumeration. However, by as early as 1810 the census had added inquiries regarding U.S. manufacturing capabilities with questions about social matters coming in 1850. In 1940 the dual long form/short form system was put into play with most households receiving the short form census with questions more appropriate to a simple enumeration and a portion of households receiving the long form census seeking detailed demographic information.

With the unpopularity of the intrusive long form leading to a decline in the census response rate and the government seeking more accurate demographic data, the Census Bureau began developing and implementing the American Community Survey in the late 1990s. As of 2010, the long form census was phased out with a simple short form type of census being conducted every ten years as the means of enumerating the population. The 28 page American Community Survey is now being sent to roughly 3.5 million homes every year as the means of collecting the detailed information that an increasingly centralized and socialized form of government seeks.

The primary reason being given for the American Community Survey and its questions on everything from education level to whether you have a bathtub, what kind of fuel your vehicle uses and whether you receive food stamps, is that the information is needed “to determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent.” The problem with this is that I don’t see any activities authorized in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, that would involve dolling out money to state and local governments, or to other agencies or programs, and which would require this kind of data.


My search for information first took me to the American Community Survey website where I found a page addressing the question of, “Is the American Community Survey Mandatory?” That page references three sections of U.S. Code as being “relevant laws.” The first two (18 U.S. Code § 3571 and 18 U.S. Code § 3559) simply deal with classifications of federal offenses and associated fines, but contain no reference to the census or American Community Survey.

The third section of U.S. Code referenced is “13 U.S. Code § 221 – Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers.” This section prescribes a $100 fine for refusal or neglect by any person over the age of 18 to answer “any of the question on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title.” Those subchapters do not mention the American Community Survey by name, nor address its specific questions. However, subchapter II, § 141, section (a) states that:

“The Secretary (this is the Secretary of the Department of Commerce which is over the Census Bureau) shall, in the year 1980 and every 10 years thereafter, take a decennial census of population as of the first day of April of such year, which date shall be known as the “decennial census date,” in such form and content as he may determine, including the use of sampling procedures and special surveys. In connection with any such census, the Secretary is authorized to obtain such other census information as necessary.”

Subchapter IV, § 182 states:

“The Secretary may make surveys deemed necessary to furnish annual and other interim current data on the subjects covered by the censuses provided for in this title.”

This as a good example of bad legislation – something so broad and vague as to allow government attorneys to argue that the Secretary has been authorized to procure any information, about anything, from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Good legislation holds the reins of government rather tightly and jealously guards delegated authority, specifying in detail the limits of the authority being conferred upon agencies and administrators.

So, yes, the survey can be said to be required by the U.S. Code and a $100 fine can be applied, but that’s not the end of the story.


To be lawful, all law must spring from a source of authority. All authority flows by chain-of-command-hierarchy from a superior that possesses authority, to a subordinate to whom a measure of the superior’s authority is delegated. A subordinate entity can never claim for itself authority that has not been delegated to it by a superior entity that actually possesses the authority. An entity might take to itself the raw power to enforce its will upon others (i.e. at the barrel of a gun), but without properly delegated authority, such an act is unlawful.

All authority flows first from God (who possesses “all authority”) to man, then from man to government by the consent of the governed, as described in the Declaration of Independence. The precise amount of authority delegated by “we the people” to our federal government, can be easily discovered in the plain text of the United States Constitution. Anything not specifically enumerated in that document as being delegated to the federal government is “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” (Tenth Amendment).

So the question is, what article and section of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to collect detailed demographic data on the citizens of the union states? Answer: None! The closest provision is that mentioned earlier in Article I, Section 2 which calls for an “enumeration,” i.e. “a numbering,” of the persons within the union states for the apportioning of representation and direct taxes. I’m hard pressed to imagine a way to stretch that to cover fining people for refusing to tell the government whether they have a flush toilet.

In the past few sessions of Congress, bills have been introduced to “make participation in the American Community Survey voluntary, except with respect to certain basic questions, and for other purposes.” While this would appear to be a step in the right direction, it leaves the non-Constitutionally authorized survey in place and even legitimizes it by affirming that “certain basic questions” and “other purposes” will still be mandatory. The proper action would be for Congress to pass a bill acknowledging that the federal government has no authority to collect any information from the citizens of the union states except that which is necessary to achieve an accurate enumeration, that the Secretary of the Department of Commerce is hereby ordered to cease the collection of all additional data and that all sections of U.S. Code authorizing the collection of such additional data are “hereby stricken!


Just because something lacks Constitutional authorization, and therefore the force of law, doesn’t mean the government won’t try to enforce it or the courts uphold it. Nevertheless, for those wishing to opt out of the survey, there is encouraging news. It appears that the Census Bureau’s policy is “NOT” to prosecute and there has not been a prosecution since 1970.

In a January 2014 article from Tulsa’s KRMG news radio website, Census Bureau Assistant Division Chief, Tim Olsen, is quoted as saying that “the Census Bureau is not a law enforcement agency. We are fully reliant upon public cooperation, and so we do not refer people on to the Justice Department for prosecution.”

An article at PolitiFact had the following to say:

“Our search for more information yielded a Jan. 9, 2013, commentary by David Whiting of the Orange County (Calif.) Register quoting a bureau spokeswoman, Jennifer Smits, saying that nobody had been fined for failing to participate to date. By telephone, bureau spokeswoman Stacy Gimbel Vidal told us that remains so; no fines have been levied. The bureau, she said, is “really not in the business of prosecuting people who don’t comply.”

…Bureau spokesman Brian Lavin told us by email that no one has been prosecuted for failing to respond to a survey since the 1970 census.”

So if a bureau worker tells you that you “could” be fined, they’re telling the truth. However, if they say you “will” be fined, then they’re lying and are merely using a coercion tactic that relies on something that hasn’t been used in 45 years.


The question of whether to participate in the American Community Survey, or any federal survey or questionnaire not clearly authorized by the U.S. Constitution, is your call. I’m not offering legal advice and I’m certainly not telling anyone what to do.

As a Christian man, I seek to comply with all just laws, properly constituted institutions of civil government and duly authorized actions of that government. However, when government acts in a lawless manner, i.e. without proper constitutional authorization by “we the people,” then capitulation makes me an enabler of that government and its usurpation.

I admit that the survey itself isn’t a big deal. I mean, it isn’t like I really care who knows whether I live in a mobile home, went to college or what kind of internet connection I have. Just ask me and I’ll be happy to tell you – I’ll even post it on Facebook.

For me, the primary issue isn’t about privacy or the invasive nature of the questions contained in the survey. The real issue is the usurpation of the Constitutional limits placed upon the federal government. Usurpation paves the road to tyranny, and not always by one great act of usurpation, but by a thousand small ones that eventually leave a society so paralyzed that it finds itself incapable of resisting the final act that takes the last of its liberty.


For more insights on this topic, listen to this interview by former Missouri State Representative, Cynthia Davis, with her guest, Constitutional scholar and student of American history, Scott Bradley.

For more thoughts regarding the un-constitutionality of the American Community Survey, consider this post by Publius Huldah – The U.S. Census: Rule of Law or Rule of Men?

40 thoughts on “The Census and The American Community Survey: Do You Really Have to Answer All Those Questions?

  1. I would like to learn more and become politically involved. I have been living in a bubble, letting everyone else do the thinking for me. I am ashamed. I am home schooling my 17 year old and we are learning about the branches of government. We just received the American Community Survey and like a blind fool I obediently filled it out and was ready to mail it. My husband stopped me and we did some research together. We are now declining to participate in the survey. I can’t believe how ignorant I am of so many things about our government, how it works, and our constitutional rights. My husband is not yet a citizen. He is here on permanent visa. He knows more than I. He says it is because he has lived under an oppressive government and has all ready fought many battles in his home country , the Philippines. Thank you for this article. I am going to research all you outlined for myself and use this as a teaching moment for my daughter. I do hope we don’t get fined even $100.00. We need that money for other things. But, if we do, it will be well worth it. If you have any advice for me on how I can learn more or get more involved as I am learning, I would love to hear from you. It is my hope that my daughter will be well educated and ready to vote in the upcoming election, and also become a productive part of the political process once she turns 18. I have so much to learn, but it is better late than never.

    Thank you,
    Tina Mangalonzo

    1. Tina,

      Glad to hear of your awakening and your desire to become informed and take responsibility for our government and society.

      Regarding your desire to learn, I would recommend starting with the Institute on the Constitution study course I would also recommend that you visit the resrouces page of my website ( to find links to recommended books, DVDs, and online videos.

      To further challenge and stimulate your thinking and to keep informed of current events, I recommend:

      –The American View – weekly video commentary by Jake MacAulay
      –The Castle Report – weekly 5-10 minute news and commentary on national and foreign affairs by my friend and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate, Darrell Castle
      –Home Front – weekly newsletter and interview based podcast by my friend, former state representative, Cynthia Davis
      –I also tend to stay informed about a lot of current events by monitoring the Constitution Party Facebook page

      To get involved in the political process, I point people to the organization that I’m involved in, the Constitution Party As a Christian Constitutionist who is committed to honoring God, upholding the Constitution and contending for liberty, I find the Constitution Party to be the best fit for me. There are some other good organizations out there, including some Tea Party groups or local independent organizations. To find a Constitution Party contact near you, visit this page and click on your state on the national map

      Though I occasionally find a Republican candidate who I can in good conscience support and vote for, I can not, and do not, support or participate in the Republican Party as its leadership and the majority of it’s office holders have consistently moved away from a Biblical worldview and principles of liberty through Constitutionally limited government. I consider that organization to be a trap that serves mostly to hold Christian and conservative people captive and to neutralize their efforts.

      Most of all, I encourage asking God to open your eyes and to teach you by His Spirit from the scriptures the principles of His kingdom’s government and how those principles can be rightly applied to our civil government. Then go find people who hold those same principles, and who refuse to compromise those principles, and get plugged in with them so you can study together, encourage one another and work together to raise a righteous standard.

      By the way, I want to say “Welcome!” to your husband. Glad to have him with us and happy he is paying attention and working to be a good American citizen.

  2. w ward

    I got the propaganda that said the survey was to determine building schools and hospitals in my area. I tend to wander, so I didn’t want to answer online and permanently connect my email address and isp to this address.
    When I got the paper form, I was shocked to see that the questions had Nothing to do with local schools or hospitals. The government has my information from tax returns, so asking about My education, vehicle, electronic devices and the exact time of my commute to work seems Way too personal for what the stated purpose (lie) is.
    Even their statement of privacy is a joke – they DO release information, online, for free. Anyone can access every census available to 1940. Some enumerated then, are still living.
    I won’t be sending in the form. If some temp agency day-jobber shows up at the door, they’ll have to record my answers in a cloud of bear spray.

    1. I’m sure they want to know your income bracket so they can decide whether to send more federal welfare dollars to your community and the commute info is probably so they can decide what kind of public transit system the federal government should force on your community. It’s mostly about deciding where and how to allocate federal dollars within states and local communities. The troubles is none of the programs that they’re allocating funds for are authorized under the constitution. So they’re using a constituitonally authorized census to ask unauthorized (illegal) questions for the purpose of implement unauthorized (illegal) programs, then accusing you of breaking the law if you don’t comply.

      1. Tasha Leone

        I live in Irvine, Orange County, Calif.

        I recently received letters and the ACS form and expect the direct contact harrassment to start soon. As a single woman, this makes me very uncomfortable.

        Can I stop the intrusive direct contact by survey takers if I post signs on my property expressly stating “NO TRESPASSING”; “NO SOLICITATION BY ACS SURVEY TAKERS,” etc (even specifically naming the ACS survey taker by name)?

        Will placement of signs give me any protection? On my front door, driveway, backyard gates, etc.?

        Can I call the police if approached?

        I live a gate guarded community. Can they legally enter into my private gated-community? And sit in my yard, park in front of my home, ???

        I do not enter or exit my home using the front door, I back my car into my garage and close the door before exiting my car. How do I keep them out of my garage?

        Any help would be appreciated.

      2. Shelley

        Since much of this information can be gleaned from income taxes by zipcode, AND building information codes required by law. I don’t understand why they need such a form attached to name, birthdate and all such info in a day and age where the DNC, the RNC various businesses and entities have been hacked and broken into. Much of the info can be gleaned from other sources without torturing citizens, and residents. I am really uncomfortable with this. I answered the census, happily and don’t remember it being so personally, big-brother like intrusive. The use of it and it’s security scares me, and feels to be an abuse.
        At least i don’t have to ride hundreds of miles on a donkey, pregnant to take it.

    2. CAWS

      So far no one has been fined for not answering the ACS, but there is a clause that says if you commit a CRIME against the census [like assault on a worker that comes to your door] you will probably be arrested. However there is a no trespass form [online at liberty first legal inc] that you can fill out and present them while you record it with your phone so that if they come back to harass you the sheriff can arrest them. Do not fill out online either as now they will have your email & IP address. Some have been called incessantly but you can use caller id or turn of ringer at night. Also the Rutherford Institute of Constitutional Lawyers has a form letter you can send to Census that outlines legit reason for not answering, but then you have admitted you received it. They also claim they will represent you for free if fined [up to $5000] as they are itching to take this to the Supreme Court to get it thrown out.

  3. Tasha,

    I’m not a lawyer and so won’t pretend to be able to give specific legal advice as to how to handle census workers. I would say that as with any government employee, none are allowed into your home without a court issued warrant. Living in a gated community adds an interesting dynamic. I would think that anything inside the gate would be considered private property. However, in order to perform their legitimate duty of determining how many people live at what location, there probably is a provision in law that census workers are allowed to come onto private property. I would think that the most you can do is decline to answer their questions or decline to answer the door. If they refuse to leave your property, then you might have grounds to call the local police and deal with them as trespassers.

  4. Warren Farmer, Peoria, Az.

    I tossed aside the “Survey” offhand without giving it another thought. I wasn’t about to answer any of those questions. I did find it odd that it had only been 5 years since the last Censu and here they were again. I only ever give the Censue the names and ages of those in my household and nothing more. I never dreamed that I would get visits to my door by 3 different census workers! Each time I told them the same thing. “You have no Constitutional athority to conduct a census outside of the 10 year census called for in the Constittution. No, I don’t want to hear that its for schools and roads because that is what the 10 year census is for. No, I will not tell you how many people live here or their names or their ages nor any other tidbit of information you are trying to gleen from me.” “You are exceeding your Constitutional Athority by taking a Census this year”
    All three finally left, trying to hand me their business card as they did so…which I didn’t take.
    What really got me was the fourth visit. It wasn’t about me or my family. This worker wanted to know about the family across the street and what information I could provide the Census Bureau about them!
    I unleashed on the poor guy. Nothing vulgar but I think he left feeling like he needed a vacation!

  5. w ward

    Update: November was my month of hell for home visits and I documented activity for files.
    A rep came knocking twice a week for four weeks at unexpected times. I think the only thing that prevented her from showing up more frequently was snow and cold. BLATANTLY ignored the “Please No Soliciting/No Flyers” sign on my door, shoving business cards and brochures in the locked screen door grill, like it’s the census’ own mail dump. Then she would sit in her truck across the street for 20 minutes, watching. In 20 minutes, I googled quite a bit about her. But I have no desire to go to her side of town.
    Because I repeatedly ignored her, my “case” was “escalated” to the Regional Director, for which the minion rep brought special delivery UPS packets on holidays (Election and Veterans Days). Which were just letters and booklets assuring confidentiality. (no court summons) So, in a conspicuous place on the porch, I put everything in a bucket I use to shovel the neighbor’s cat poo. I came across information that reps have to make six attempts before their supervisors will allow them to stop visiting. I figured I could make it through that. Reading other people’s experiences, I kind of knew what to expect and wanted to be prepared.
    Despite my entering all the Bureau numbers I could find into my cellphone and setting Auto Reject and Silent Ringtone, they somehow acquired my private number and used it against me. It cost me $15 to change it. And, because I never know who might be in the yard when I return from errands, I’ve had to buy pepper spray for the first time in my life. Another $15. (because a bear spray canister is too big for my purse) Yes, more vigilant about shades down, locking car door and quickly opening/closing garage door.
    • I found a pdf flyer with Regional Director’s picture and statements of “Census Bureau will Never ask for financial information, nor ask that you fill it out online.” I don’t know what their definition of ‘never’ is, but to me, both are false. Survey contains TWENTY-THREE financial questions and I was asked THREE times to go online. “Confidentiality” is also a misnomer as they release this data to the media, and all those harvester/compiler websites the first Friday of every month. It doesn’t bother me in the least to be branded an “NR” (no response) I’m thinking of making a bumper sticker.
    ACS began in 1996. Probably no coincidence the same time that a certain famous “community organizer” began his first term as Senator. Then he got a promotion. You’d think after nearly 20 years, we’d see a sign or some accountability of which hospitals/schools/firestations are built as a result of ACS. Public transit in my area is an expensive and unreliable joke.
    Looks like Census is really gearing up for 2020. I don’t want to be around to go through this again.

    1. Gia

      W Ward, can you tell me what ever happened? Did they leave you alone? My daughter is starting to receive them at her home.. Please update us.. Thanks.. Gia

  6. I’ve gotten one too recently. I’m not answering these questions as it’s a direct violation of the aforementioned “enumeration” that are/were part of the original God-given Constitution of these United States of Americas. I’ll keep you guys posted. Thanks for this awesome post about this and I’m looking forward to becoming more informed, and a more educated citizen. I feel good about my position and although I’m not looking for harassment, I’m not going to pushed over either. Thanks again everyone.

  7. jkhu

    I found this part of it most interesting:
    Applicants must be available to work days, evenings,
    and weekends. Since not all people will be home during
    the day, you will have to visit some homes during the
    evening and on the weekends. This will usually be no
    later than 9:00 p.m. You generally will have flexibility to
    choose which hours to work during these productive
    time periods.

  8. jkhu


    When you have successfully completed your training, you
    will be given several neighborhood blocks called
    “Assignment Areas”. Normally, your first assignment will be
    the area in which you live. You will be provided a map of
    each Assignment Area and the necessary census forms
    and materials to do the job. Most of the jobs are in the field,
    and require you to locate and interview households and
    record information about the residents. When you accept
    your appointment, you assume an obligation to stay with
    the job until your assignment is complete

  9. Nancy

    I am completely annoyed. Not filling it out this time. Thank you for the information. Grrrr.
    Very personal questions.

  10. C. G.

    I live in Burbank California. I am being harassed by the US Census Bureau.

    In mid-December of 2015, someone knocked on my door in the evening and identified herself as a representative of the US Census, and asked if I would do a ten minute survey. I agreed, though it took closer to 40 minutes with invasive questions ranging from, “how much money did you spend last week on non-essential food items” and “how many toilets in your home” and “do you consider yourself someone who makes decisions easily”. The representative asked for my cell number, which I was reluctant to give, but did.

    Two weeks later, the same representative called me from the Census Bureau for a “follow up survey”. How my life could’ve possibly changed over two weeks was lost on me, but I agreed. She asked all the same questions. It took the same amount of time. She thanked me and I thought that was it.

    It wasn’t.

    Three weeks later, she called AGAIN to ask the same follow up questions. I told her no. I did not agree to this. I’ve already answered the questions. I then asked her how many follow up calls were there? She told me “not many.” I refused, hung up, and immediately emailed the Regional Office that had sent her. My email said that I am no longer willing to participate, I didn’t agree to countless surveys over the phone, and that if I’m contacted again I will file a formal harassment complaint.

    For your reference, this is the office:
    James T. Christy, Regional Director, Los Angeles Regional Office

    15350 Sherman Way, Suite 400
    Van Nuys, CA 91406-4224
    (818) 267-1700 or 1-800-992-3529
    FAX: (818) 267-1711
    TDD: (818) 904-6249

    No one replied to my email.

    Then things started to escalate. Different representatives began calling me multiple times a day, but I ignored the calls. Then their office began sending representatives to my house. At first it was every few days, someone would pound on the door, they wouldn’t identify themselves. But I ignored them. After roughly 10 minutes, they would go away. (10 minutes feels like an eternity when someone unwanted is pounding on your door.)

    So I again emailed the Census Bureau and called them. I spoke with a representative who would NOT allow me to make a formal complaint and would NOT confirm they would stop sending people. They used the call like a sales pitch, explaining that I needed to do all of the follow up surveys. It was during this call that I learned technically I am not in the survey and therefore can’t withdraw. My APARTMENT is in the survey. The expectation is that for four months, Dec through April, I would have to take their survey EVERY THREE WEEKS. And that this would occur EVERY YEAR, year after year.

    At that point I began contacting higher authorities to get the Census to STOP. I filed a form with congressman, Adam Schiff, which is being processed and may take 30 days. I contacted an attorney, who I’m waiting to hear back from, though they admitted they hadn’t heard about this kind of harassment from the Census Bureau. I also contacted the police to make sure I could call the station if and when the Census representatives showed up.

    What I am up against is the fact that the Census is a Federal organization. Local law enforcement is not an overseeing entity, and there are few organizations higher than the Census (my congressman should be a higher force, but as I mentioned my case is pending).

    Currently, different representatives have come to my home pounding on my door as frequently as three times a day. I work from home, but this is not simply a nuisance. I feel intimidated and quite frankly, threatened. And honestly, I am baffled at their expectation. I took the damn survey. How can they expect that year after year I would do 40 minutes surveys every three weeks? It’s mind-boggling.

    After my situation escalated to Census representatives pounding on my door multiple times a day, I began researching online (google search of “I am being harassed by the Census Bureau”) and found I am not alone.

    Someone has got to stop the Census Bureau from harassing citizens. And someone has got to significantly modify the expectations of the survey. No one in their right mind would ever volunteer for the time commitment expected, month after month and year after year, for this survey.

    Is there anything you can do to help me?

    1. The ultimate answer is for Congress to follow the original intent of the U.S. Constitution and only take a census once every 10 years and to only ask how many people live at the given address. Until that happens, people are going to be harassed with these invasive questions. However, even if the government is determined to know these things, they certainly could get the info without putting people through what you’re going through.

      I would be very tempted to seek a restraining order, or file charges of harassment. I’m quite sure that it would not work, I’m just saying that I’d be tempted to try it.

      Someone at a higher level (higher up in the census bureau or a Congressional committee or hearing) needs to have this brought to their attention. Maybe the local bureau is doing this on their own and needs to be called on the carpet for harassing people and wasting the bureau’s money and manpower. If the policy is emanating from the bureau headquarters in DC, then it’s really up to Congress or the President to rein in the bureau and change this policy.

      The hard part is getting the needed attention at a high enough level. If enough people pester their Congressmen all at the same time, the Congressman might hear the noise and look into it. However, the survey is being sent to such a small percentage of the population each year that it would be hard to find enough harassment victims to rally together and make the needed noise.

      I would say that either someone needs to rise up and champion the cause, rallying others around him and getting action in DC, or we need to elect Congressmen who return to the plain text and original intent of the Constitution and end this madness.

      1. C. G.

        Thank you for your reply. I’m hoping that having contacted my congressman and having filed a case that they advocate for me against a Federal body, that this will get them to take my address off the survey, which is the specific resolution I told them I am seeking. I’ve also contacted the news desk of NBC local news in my area, who may report my experience. I spoke to the police, who couldn’t file a stalking/harassment report because I’m not being harassed by an individual for personal reasons, but different representatives of an organization. But I can call the police to have them remove the representative from my doorstep, however as a non-emergency police call, it isn’t likely the police would arrive before the representative left. In the meantime, since my vehicle is parked directly outside of my front door, the next time a Census representative bangs on my door, I’m going to trigger my car alarm. If I have to hear them pounding, then they’re going to have to hear the shrill, incessant alarm.

  11. T R Hicke

    Hello. I have read the article and through these comments that started out about the American Community Survey (ACS) then went somewhere else (C.G. was not talking about ACS). I am not surprised by the mean-spirited and hateful things posted. The flat-out lies kind of threw me. I am a field representative (FR), NOT a solicitor, with the Census Bureau and I work 2 surveys: ACS & National Health. Wherever anyone got the notion that we FRs are temps or high-paid government workers is beyond my ability to comprehend. I average 75 hours a month and my income is at the poverty level. A disabled military veteran and stay-at-home mom who suddenly found myself raising five children alone passed the written test & interview and got a job helping my country in a different way, collecting data to improve my state, county, and local community: what could set a better example for my children?

    I have been told ACS is un-Constitutional. Maybe it is, but it is still required by law. Congress made it so. Don’t blame me, NO ONE I voted for was elected. Maybe the people complaining about it should check their Congressional representatives’ records and go from there. My children have this habit of eating 4 or 5 times every day, and they outgrow their clothes. I WORK – no child support, no food stamps, no welfare, no housing or utility assistance, no free cell phone or internet, no hand outs, no VA compensation (they lost my medical records and can’t ‘prove’ my disability), no state or federal disability compensation – I WORK.

    I have been threatened with being cut up into little pieces while another man pointed a gun at my head and cocked the hammer while I was sitting in my truck on a public county road looking at my map – neither had any idea who I am or why I was on that road, but they were hopped up on something and really paranoid. I was shot at while standing by a partially open gate by someone inside a house that was supposed to be vacant and abandoned (I didn’t enter the gate or approach the house); I submitted it as a Refusal and my regional office sent it back asking me to try to complete the survey. I told them that with no insurance or other benefits and no one to care for my children should I be shot, I would absolutely NOT go back. Every refusal counts against my performance record as does every second & third & subsequent trip back to be verbally attacked and threatened. People have called law enforcement on me for trespassing, but the legal code in my state reads that it is not trespassing for an official (government employee or law enforcement) in the performance of their duties. I am not trespassing, I’m doing my job. I have not been arrested, or even told by the law enforcement officials to stop doing my job there. A woman sent her dog to attack me; it bit me once and I scolded it, shaking my bloody hand at it, and it went and laid down by the house.

    If you don’t want to do the survey, say so. Would it kill you to show simple human decency to a person? Hiding from/avoiding the FR is just plain childish as is cussing at, threatening, and name calling. I am sworn to keep your data confidential for the rest of my life or face 5 years in a federal prison, up to $250,000 fine, or both. In the first place, I couldn’t remember your stuff – I have trouble remembering important stuff like which of my children is playing at what event on what day, what teacher I need to meet with, if I need to pick up anything from the store. In the second place, there is nothing worth me losing my children over, NOT ANY THING.

    For the record, if you don’t want to give the names of household members, list them as persons AAA, BBA, CCA (if they have the same last name); don’t give dates of birth, estimate ages. How is that so hard? Don’t want to tell income amounts? Just answer, “I don’t want to say.” No problem. There are really no other ‘intrusive’ questions. Answer the easy stuff. If you think a question is too personal, just say you don’t want to answer it. That way, you have met the legal requirement for participation. It’s not difficult, and the time you waste arguing and/or being ugly is YOUR time; I’m still getting my meager hourly wage. Again, I didn’t make ACS participation a legal requirement, Congress did. Jump their butts, not mine, I’m just working to make a life for my children. I have never ever harassed anyone. If you know the definition of harassment and then feel a Census FR has persecuted or intimidated you or used hostile or prejudicial remarks or actions to coerce you in an attempt to do their job, get their business card and call their Regional Office (the RO # is on their card also) to report them — without lying or exaggerating the facts. Hyperbole always makes an argument weak.

    I have successfully completed several hundred ACS surveys with respondents who not only had no problem with it, but many, many of them have asked me to come back when I’m not working for social time together. I’ve helped young mothers with crying babies, elderly with mobility problems, the grief-stricken, I’ve run errands, and helped my respondents in many ways big & small. I love my job! The nice, friendly people outnumber the stinkers by a wide margin. Even some of the stinkers became less so when they actually listened, when they stopped playing some macho tough guy ‘I’m right and you’re crap’ game.

    Unless and until ACS is stopped by a Congress that listens to their constituents and/or respects and obeys the Constitution, we FRs are going to keep on doing our legal jobs to the best of our ability. Being childish and ugly to FRs will not end ACS or any of the other 21 – 56 Census surveys. Grow up, put on a pair, and deal with your Congressional representatives if you don’t want to be in a Census survey. Tell them why you believe it’s un-Constitutional or wrong or none of their business. Make your argument to them! Make them earn their six-figure income by representing YOU, and quit blaming the FR who knocks on your door – we are doing the job THEY created.

  12. I just got the ACS to fill out & send in.The questions about race are disgusting .They want to know about Hispanic,Latino,or Spanish origins, but say that is not a race.Are you Black or African American?They ask what is your ancestry or ethnic origin,& on & on. I’m NOT taking a DNA test to satisfy their insufferable agenda! My ancestry are the people that tamed this land & built it & fought in all the wars to save it. I am an AMERICAN with no other Motherland & I want my Country back!!!!

  13. Old Vet

    Got the ACS in the mail and refuse to fill it out. Got the call from the census worker asking if I got the form told her yes and was told blah blah section 13. Told her the fine for not filling the ACS form was $100 and asked where to send the check and to who do I make the check out too. No response. After several minutes of telling her I was not filling the form out and that I had contacted my Congressmen who’s regional director said if I did not feel comfortable filling it out she said (unofficially) don’t. I was told a rep would be sent to the house, I said fine I will tell them the same thing, I will not fiil the ACS form out. With all the computer hacking going on, really how secure is any data. Really, they want to know if I am a disabled vet; are they going to fix the VA– NOT. I have no intention of selling my house so why do I care what it worth to sell. Did I give birth in the last 12 months, physically impossible I’m a male. Government run a muck, it is time they learn they work for us.

  14. Donna Johnson

    Your are so right Government has run a muck! I just hung up on the(ACS) we are the people with rights stand strong and take our country back!!

  15. George S

    Agency determinations are judicially reviewable, in the case of census forms, when was it determined that you specifically must fill out a form? It wasn’t, now the census bureau could I think in theory make such a determination but then it would also have all the information in its possession for counting, which would make the further collecting moot. The Census Bureau is charged with counting, it is not upon the American to do the counting for them, however, if one would like to voluntarily provide information to them, that is okay as well.
    One never has to help a government agency unless one is involved in a “public right”, as you are just living and no “public right” is being used, you are under no obligation to assist the government agency, with that said, you should not infer with said government agencies activities. If a government agent says you have to fill out a form, this is a legal determination which should be processed through the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) which a hearing must be granted so that the American can contest the determination i.e. due process. Each party in theory should then have an opportunity for judicial review or enforce by a USDC judge see APA. However, as noted, if you are not involved in a “public right” exactly what reason would you be assisting a government agency? And as noted, if this were part of the 10-year census and they got this far, they then would have all information they would need anyhow.
    The Census Bureau doesn’t any of this because you are generally not obligated to assist them, but of course, if you are unable to defend yourself in an administrative and or legal process, well, you never know. It is up to Americans to keep the government in check, the problem is, Americans are not learning how to legally protect themselves.

  16. spears-harrison

    My daughter, mother and I own homes in the same neighborhood. My child received a census letter; however, my mother and I did not. Should we also have gotten one? Explain.

    1. For the real census authorized in the Constitution every person needs to be counted. However, for the so-called “Community Survey,” only a percentage of the population is surveyed each year in order to achieve a statistical sampling. They’ll probably get to you in a year or two.

  17. Dana Fry

    After reading your great information, I threw out both copies of the ACS and the reminder notices. The “enumerator” did appear. I opened the door to her and when she identified herself I closed the door to a width of 4 inches. I spoke to her through that limited space and told her we would not participate other than to tell her there are two people living here. She sat down on a porch chair, opened her computer and tried to pull more info from me. When she started breathing funny, she explained that it happens when she’s dealing with combative people. I offered to call 911. She picked up her computer, arose and walked back to her car. She did linger outside of the gate for a while. She did linger a half a block away before engaging her vehicle, driving to the stop sign, turning left on to the highway hopefully to never be seen again.

  18. Alex

    They want to know so much on my ACS: What my Water Bill is. What my Mortgage payments are. If i have a second mortgage, what my Gas Bill is, what tie I leave for work. I don’t tell these things to a friend, much less the government. Can’t believe they feel they have the right to be this intrusive

  19. Pingback: The Census and The American Community Survey: Do You Really Have to Answer All Those Questions? | skatingthru2012

  20. Albert Banwart

    IF the citizenship question is included in the 2020 census, it is planned to ask if you are a citizen of the US. There are multiple USs, such as the United States of Japan, United State of Women, the United State of Europe, so pick the one you wish and answer accordingly.

  21. Q

    I was a Census enumerator (field worker) for the 2000 census. I never dealt with the ACS, although I did need to approach some folks with a “long form”, which sounds similar to the ACS.

    Back in 2000, where I worked, some of the high-ups could be a bit strict at times but tended not to be awful. I got some REs (“refusals”), but it wasn’t really counted against me. In fact, my boss’s boss was so impressed with my work that I was offered a promotion. I turned it down once my enumerator job was done.

    Where I worked, the people were mostly decent. No dog bites or guns, just an occasional “I’m not interested in cooperating” type. I understood where they were coming from and did my best to be respectful of their wishes as best I could – but I also had bosses who were reasonable. I was told in my training that a different enumerator would follow up on REs. So, when I got an RE, I just let it go at that.

    I’m sorry for those of you who have felt harassed or stalked by Census workers. That is messed-up. I did my best not to do that. I gotta wonder, though, if perhaps Census Bureau policies have since become more aggressive – and some questions perhaps more intrusive. I don’t know.

    My advice to you all is to comply with the ten-year census, because it is mandated by the US Constitution; beyond that, feel free to exercise your own discretion. Just keep in mind that the government may be able to fine you for noncompliance.

    If you are approached by a census worker, please don’t shoot at them; don’t let your dog bite them; don’t call the cops on them for doing their job; don’t subject them to any type of threats or abuse. That would include deliberate loud car alarm blaring. Census workers are just there to do their job. And guess what? They tend to live around where you do. They could be your neighbors.

    If it bothers you to see their car there after their visit, keep in mind that we need to note dates and times that people were not home, contacts that were successful, etc. – to try to limit time spent harassing folks and / or not getting our job done, because folks aren’t home. (I guess some enumerators are better at keeping this info straight than others.)

    Some folks among us enumerators have disabilities, limited means of generating income and / or similar issues, so please be respectful even if you refuse to cooperate.

    To hold folks accountable, get the enumerator’s business card, badge number, whatever ID they have – and contact info. Ask for their supervisor’s name and contact info as well. Do this before you refuse to participate. Note the date and time the worker approached you. If it is legal to do so, record any and all attempts of them contacting you. If you can set up a security camera for your front door and record video, so long as it’s legal, I’d say, “Do it!” Document the interactions if you legally can. That way, if there is legit harassment by a bad actor, you could maybe go after them. It would still be a pain in the butt to do, though, because of Qualified Immunity. If you run into issues with enumerators, be sure that you contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you oppose Qualified Immunity because of situations like alleged Census enumerator / supervisor harassment. Qualified Immunity doesn’t exist in the Constitution, so it should be abolished, anyway.

    I would point out, though: please consult an attorney on these matters. I am not an attorney. Besides, if you want to go after a bad actor, you’ll probably need a lawyer and lots of money – and you could lose in court, anyway.

    I agree with you guys that the ACS and the old “long form” are and have been too invasive of people’s privacy. Even when I worked for the Census Bureau, I found myself apologizing to some interviewees for questions that in my personal opinion were an unreasonable search – an invasion of people’s privacy.

    One final note: the Census claim of confidentiality is somewhat of a joke. Yes, we enumerators are legally-required to keep your personal info confidential; but I highly doubt that anyone will be held accountable in the event of a data breach, now that the Census is online. Besides which, yes, some of your personal data is made public as a part of statistics. So basically, the Census Bureau in my opinion has privacy policy ethics similar to that of a tech firm that claims to respect your privacy while not doing so.

    I suppose you can figure out by now: I haven’t worked for the Census Bureau since and have no intention of changing that in the foreseeable future. The authority on matters like this should rest with the people, not government bureaucrats.

  22. Q

    By the way, you don’t have to let an enumerator into your home. Their job is to get you to answer the Census / survey questions. That does not have to be done inside your home. One of my interviews was actually done over the phone. Sometimes that’s just simply more convenient for both parties.

    So, if an enumerator insists on being allowed in your home, you should be able to say no. Although if you provide no contact info, that might complicate things.

    But seriously, consult a lawyer to be sure. I don’t recall a “How many toilets are in your home” question on the 2000 Census long form, although it has been 20 years….

    1. Q – Thanks for sharing your insights from the other side of the door so to speak. I appreciate your respectful service. 

      I’m not opposed to the Constitutionally prescribed census to the extent it is necessary to assign apportionment in congress. In fact, I don’t really care who knows how many toilets I have, whether I have a college loan, etc. My greatest concern is that the government is requesting information that we the people did not authorize it to collect and every time we cooperate, we serve as enablers of usurpation and set a precedent of consenting to government taking to itself powers that we did not delegate to it. 

      I’ve already received a notice for this year’s census. It provides a place to do the census online. I got about a third of the way through when it started to ask questions like whether the house I live in is owned by me, whether I have a mortgage, own the house free and clear, or whether I rent. It won’t let me proceed to the next page until I answer the questions on the current page, so, that’s where I quit. The letter I received said if I didn’t do the census online, they would mail a printed form next month, so I’ll just do it that way.

      I hope we all understand that when it comes to census workers knocking at your door, it’s not an “us vs them” kind of thing seeing that “them” are your friends and neighbors doing a necessary job so we can apportion representation in congress as the Constitution calls for. 

      However, while it’s not “us vs them,” it is us vs ignorance of the U.S. Constitution. I am confident that most of our elected representatives are participating in unwitting usurpation of powers not delegated to the federal government, but it is usurpation nonetheless. Perhaps if enough people decline to answer the extra-constitutional questions on the census, we could create a teachable moment in which we could get the attention of our government and call it back to its constitutionally prescribed confines.

      1. Carey Allison

        The “I was just following orders.” defense didn’t work very well when it was previously tried. What the “poor ACS worker is doing to supplement their meager income” is doing is of the their own free will and accord, sort of like the hooker getting naked and on her back is her own free will and accord. I don’t consider either occupation or defense very highly.

  23. Penny

    Awesome article. Thank you. I received the survey in 2016 and returned it with “No comment” written across every page. I also filled in the date and # of ppl in household. Nothing happened. I think I waited too long and someone came to my house b4 I finally sent it back. I forget for sure.

    Now, 5 years later I just received it again. I intend to do the same thing. But I will do it quickly so they leave me alone sooner.

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