Every 10 years, the U.S Census Bureau undertakes an enormous task of gathering data on the people living and working here.
The next census in 2020 will entail counting a diverse and growing population of roughly 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units. Lots of planning has gone into making this data gathering as accurate and easy as possible. This time, people will be able to respond to the survey online via their computers or smartphones. The survey will be available in 13 languages, too.
The Census Bureau will be reaching out through the normal communication channels as well as via social media and chatbot technology to connect with all folks — from mobile millennials to hard-to-count populations. According to a bureau news release, people also will be able to learn about the census via digital assistants.
Consider these “conversations” offered by the bureau that highlight this technology:
“Alexa, where can I take the 2020 Census?”
Alexa: “You can take the census over the internet. Do you want me to text you the URL? Or by phone. I can send that number as well.”
“Hey Siri, is my data for the 2020 Census secure?”
Siri: “The Census Bureau has strong protection for the information it collects from individuals and businesses under Title 13.”
With social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, not only will the bureau be able to reach households across the country and hard-to-reach populations, they will be able to use these communication avenues to identify and quickly respond to misinformation before it spreads.
Census bureau officials have stated, too, that the agency’s goal and legal obligation is to keep data safe. Each respondent’s online information will be encrypted and protected when it arrives. The bureau plans to use Google’s reCAPTCHA service to protect access to the online questionnaire from spam, bots and other cyberattack attempts.
Farmers are familiar with responding to surveys and census gathering, given the importance of participating in annual planting and harvesting surveys. Some people don’t like taking part because they don’t trust the government or because they view their data as private and off limits.
It’s surprising that most people don’t know why the government conducts surveys.
According to results from a 2018 Census Bureau survey, only 45% of respondents knew the census conducted every 10 years in the U.S. was used to help determine public funding. Sixty-two percent said benefits to their communities are the most important reason for filling out the census questionnaire. Additional responses were:
- Around 40% of survey respondents didn’t feel it matters whether they are personally counted in the 2020 census.
- Young people ages 18 to 34 are the least likely to believe it matters if they are counted.
- About one in four survey respondents are concerned about the confidentiality of answers to the 2020 census. Racial and ethnic minorities were significantly more concerned about that than whites.
- Nearly one in four survey respondents fear that their answers to the 2020 census will be used against them.
- Over half of survey respondents did not trust their federal or state government.
The Census Bureau has a huge task to reassure the public about the importance of gathering data on U.S. populations and that this data will be kept safe and not used against those who respond.
We should know by this time next year how successful those efforts are.