Count on Stats Effort Looks to Rebuild Confidence in Federal Statistics

Partnering with a handful of other groups, the American Statistical Association launched the “Count on Stats” campaign to address flagging confidence in federal statistics.

Over the past year or so, the American Statistical Association has seen federal statistics taking a hit.

In January 2017, The Guardian published an article, “decrying an apparent loss of confidence in statistics, referring mostly to government statistics,” said ASA Executive Director Ronald Wasserstein. Then, a few months later, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney openly expressed a lack of confidence in the unemployment rate, the figures of which are produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This was a matter of great concern to us because a lot of effort is put into maintaining the accuracy and integrity of those figures, and for them to be just cavalierly dismissed as being politically produced or unscientific in some way was definitely wrong and upsetting,” Wasserstein said.

To restore confidence in the methods used and the figures produced by federal statistics, ASA started work on the Count on Stats campaign. “When government statistics are under attack, someone needs to speak up,” Wasserstein said. “When that attack comes from the government itself, the federal statistical system cannot speak out for itself, so we decided we should.”

To get the campaign off the ground, ASA has partnered with seven other organizations, including the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, and the American Educational Research Association. These organizations helped ASA think through the rationale for the campaign and help with the basic plans. “We’re expecting other partners as well, as the importance, integrity, and trustworthiness of federal statistics is of great interest to many,” Wasserstein said.

But connecting with organizations is just one way ASA hopes to get the word out about Count on Stats. Meetings with members of Congress, interviews with media, and the hashtag #CountOnStats are additional methods the group will use to provide information about the importance, integrity, and trustworthiness of the federal statistical system.

“We would love to see the conversation changed,” Wasserstein said. For example, with the 2020 Census coming up, it’s important for people to understand how important it is to fill out that form and turn it in.

“We’d want to see the people in government expressing their confidence in these statistics, as opposed to only expressing concern about them,” he said. “And we would love to see the media understanding themselves how important these figures are, how reliable these figures are, and successfully communicating that to their audiences.”

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Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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