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Census, Administrative Records, Mindsets, Communications Campaign
Due to the increasing and unsustainable cost of conducting censuses in the traditional manner, the Census Bureau is looking to leverage administrative records housed elsewhere in the government to supplement and/or replace costly nonresponse followup operations in future censuses. Before embarking on this new methodology, the agency must be mindful of public opinion as it poses new concerns about privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent. Previous research presents a somewhat conflicting picture of the topic – on one hand, public favorability toward the use of administrative records looks to be declining (Singer, Bates, Van Hoewyk, 2011). On the other hand, a recent study of public willingness to grant informed consent to record use paints a more optimistic picture (Pascale, 2011).
In summer 2011, the Census Bureau conducted the second iteration of a survey designed to understand public attitudes toward the decennial census and the potential barriers and motivators to participating in the census. Included in the survey was a set of questions to evaluate overall attitudes toward using administrative records and various options for communicating the use of administrative records to the public. The instrument used a randomly assigned split-ballot questionnaire that presented three different framing contexts: framing the use of administrative records in terms of a cost savings, a decreased burden, and a control in which the questions are asked without reference to any benefits. Results enable the Census Bureau to better understand public opinion about the use of administrative records and how the agency might go about communicating the new method. Ultimately, the Census Bureau will use these results to inform the 2020 Census communications campaign and will allow administrative records usage messaging to be tailored to different segments of the population.
Nancy Bates, Monica J. Wroblewski, and Joanne Pascale. (2012). Public Attitudes Toward the Use of Administrative Records in the U.S. Census: Does Question Frame Matter?. Center for Center for Survey Measurement Research Report Series (Survey Methodology #2012-04). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <http://www.census.gov/srd/papers/pdf/rsm2012-04.pdf>.
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