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Interviewer Attitudes about Privacy and Confidentiality

Thomas S. Mayer

KEY WORDS: confidentiality; privacy; nonresponse; interviewer attitudes


Although the U.S. Census Bureau has an admirable record for maintaining confidentiality of census and survey data, investigations have nevertheless found evidence of negative perceptions of the Census Bureau regarding issues of privacy and confidentiality. People often report that questions asked by the Census Bureau are an invasion of their privacy, and also report that they don’t trust the Census Bureau to keep data confidential. In addition, studies indicate that some Census Bureau field staff share those negative perceptions. If so, interviewers’ attitudes may render them less effective in converting reluctant respondents who are concerned about privacy or doubt confidentiality, thus leading to increased nonresponse.

This paper reports the results of an investigation of current Census Bureau field interviewers’ attitudes regarding privacy and confidentiality, and how these attitudes compare to previous assessments. Results from a questionnaire administered to a large sample of field staff, suggest that interviewers believe that privacy issues and doubts about data confidentiality remain important concerns for respondents, and also that a small though persistent minority of interviewers themselves share similar concerns.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: November 20, 2001

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010