The hardest part of counting America is within a whisker of being done.
The two-month-long door-to-door campaign to tally the 48 million households that didn't return the 2010 Census form is 98.8 percent complete, officials said Friday.
Despite mistrust of the government being at an all-time high, enumerators "found a very supportive public on the other side of the door," said Steve Jost, assistant director of communications for the Census Bureau.
"We're very pleased with the census operation as a whole, especially with the level of cooperation," Jost said, noting that the $14.5 billion national head count is about two weeks ahead of schedule and "significantly" under budget.
Resistance to answering the 10 questions on the census form drew widespread attention in the blogosphere and on talk shows, but officials say the data suggest that it was not any more prevalent than it has been historically.
"Despite polling showing higher levels of mistrust of government -- and we happened to be the face of the government at the peak of that -- we got pretty much same level of cooperation we saw in 2000," Jost said.
Gabriel Sanchez, the regional director in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, said there is always individual resistance to a census, but he hasn't noticed any organized opposition.
"It's very scary to knock on doors, and you get a lot of verbal assaults, but it hasn't been out of the ordinary," Sanchez said. "I feel that there are always people that fiercely guard their privacy, and they don't want the government to come knocking on their doors."
Crimes against workers
The 575,000 field enumerators who worked on the door-to-door count nationwide did encounter a full police blotter of assaults, traffic accidents, bad dogs and even a mean duck.
"We recorded 509 incidents of something untoward against our enumerators," Jost said.
"Fifteen of those were actual gunshots fired; 165 were threats with weapons that includes waving a knife and pulling back a shirt to show a holstered gun," he said. "We had 108 physical assaults where one of our employees was shoved, punched or kicked."
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