Data for trends: Census tools and polls

March 19th, 2018 by Jack Styczynski

As you prepare for your “trends” project, you should definitely peruse the Research Center guide on Data Resources (which includes sections on Census Tools and Polls), as well as the separate one on Mining Census Data.

The U.S. Census Bureau has one of the most valuable and densely-packed web sites you’ll encounter.  You’ll constantly find new information there that will amaze you with its obscurity and level of detail.  Below are some of my favorite Census Bureau pages.

  • First and foremost is American FactFinder, which includes annual American Community Survey data.  It’s the best place to get estimates since the last decennial census was undertaken.  You definitely should familiarize yourself with how to navigate this!
  • QuickFacts provides some broad statistics for states, counties, cities and towns.
  • Facts for Features and Stats for Stories are collections of statistics from the Census Bureau’s demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background for topics in the news.

Additionally, some excellent “third party” sites aggregate Census Bureau data.  Below are a few of my favorites.

Opinion polls are also a great way to detect trends in the population.

Warnings about polls: Many times there are concerns about the credibility or methodology of a pollster, so be cautious of sources.  Also remember that polls always have a margin of error, which you should cite.  Here are 20 questions journalists should ask about poll results.

Bonus tip: The J-school also subscribes to Statista, a searchable database of statistics, studies, dossiers, infographics and more, from over 100,000 vetted sources.

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