WASHINGTON - Faced with record levels of red ink into the foreseeable future, Washington is spending $2.5 million to create buzz for the census - by advertising during the Super Bowl.
The Census Bureau is hoping to exploit the strong ratings from this annual attraction, aiming to get more participation from people who seem disinclined to mail back a government questionnaire or even answer the door.
Census officials call it a good investment, saying the front-end costs of purchasing the ads can be quickly recouped if they succeed in encouraging people to mail back their census forms. A recent poll found nearly 1 in 5 residents said they may not fill them out, mostly because they were unfamiliar with the census or weren’t interested.
The government relies on the census not only to learn about Americans and their lives but also to parcel out federal dollars and determine the number of US House seats representing each state. The census officially began last month in rural Alaska, and most of the US will receive forms by mail the week of March 15.
Not everyone is happy about spending taxpayer money to tout the census during the Super Bowl. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, tweeted this week that the government “shouldn’t be wasting $2.5 million taxpayer dollars to compete with ads for Doritos!’’
The government plans additional census spots during the Winter Olympics as well as road tours throughout the country, including the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.