Americans Showing Higher Willingness to Be Counted in 2020 Census

The Census Project, in collaboration with the non-partisan national non-profit known as the “Committee to Protect Article 1 of the Constitution”, or “Article 1”, which promotes a fair, complete and accurate 2020 Census, is sharing details on Article 1’s new comprehensive national survey on public attitudes about the 2020 Census. The national survey has significant new findings on the eve of major census operations about public perceptions regarding the upcoming decennial count.

A new national survey of public attitudes about the 2020 U.S. Census shows Americans are growing more willing to stand up and be counted, confirming a positive trend from other surveys, although serious concerns about how the data will be used ‒ and if it will be secure ‒ confront the Census Bureau’s outreach campaign on the eve of major operations.

The online survey found that 58% of respondents said they “definitely will participate” in the 2020 Census. That means more than 4 in 10 are still not sure, which is comparable to this point in advance of recent decennial counts in 2000 and 2010.

The survey found deep levels of general mistrust of government driving the lack of participation among many that is undermining census participation. For example, 49% agreed with the statement “…The government will do whatever it wants regardless of the data.” This sentiment was over 50% among Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims and the youngest age group.

The findings show the toughest motivational challenge for the Census Bureau is with the youngest Americans. Among those age 18-24, only 29% said they will participate, and for those 25-35, it was 52%, well below the national average. Despite the cynicism, the 2020 Census had one of the highest reputation scores, with 78% of respondents expressing a favorable view, compared to only 50% favorable for the Federal Government.

The Census Bureau itself scored the highest of all groups measured as a “credible messenger” on the census, with a “very credible” score of 51%. The next highest rated messengers were non-profits working with the census (38% very credible), local first responders (38%) and local community organizations (35%). Among those rated the least credible were national entertainment and sports figures.

The study tested about a dozen messages intended to help motivate participation. Overall, emotional messaging that speaks to empowerment and creating a true picture of the country is very appealing ‒ nearly half of those surveyed saying each of those messages makes them much more likely to participate.

Article1’s survey showed a higher percentage of respondents were willing to participate in the 2020 Census than the Census Bureau’s own research in 2019 and virtually the same finding as Pew Research reported from September of this year. (CB 68% A1 83% Pew 84%)

The survey was conducted by Quadrant Research for Article 1, a non-profit coalition of Census experts who conducted the audience research to help craft a national unifying civic message to promote a full, complete and accurate count in 2020. During October, they conducted an online survey with 1,499 members of the general population, with an oversample of 300 English-Speaking Latinos, 300 Spanish-Speaking Latinos, 400 Muslim Americans, and 200 Asian Americans.

“While the results of this survey are indeed heartening, we know we still have a long way to go to ensure full Latino participation in the 2020 Census,” said Arturo Vargas, of Article 1, and Chief Executive Officer of NALEO Educational Fund.

“For the first time in our history, Latinos represent the second-largest population demographic in the country. Ensuring that every man, woman, and child is counted fairly and accurately is crucial to the future prosperity of our diverse community. Research like this, in addition to research being conducted internally by NALEO Educational Fund will help us address our challenges,” Vargas added.

Former Census Director Vince Barabba, also of Article 1, added that, “…although the actions by some have raised citizens’ concern over the privacy of their information, this study shows the history and track record of the Census Bureau in protecting and securing personal information has led to a strong willingness to participate in the 2020 Census.”

Dr. Ken Prewitt of Article 1, and the Census Director for the 2000 decennial put the findings in a historical context. “Every census since 1790, headwinds particular to the times notwithstanding, has refreshed a unique truth-telling tool of our democracy, designed to equip the people to take stock of how well their needs are being tended to by those it has trusted with the powers of government. And, so it will be in 2020.”

Memo from Article 1: “Recent polling on perceptions of the 2020 US Census”


Article 1 conducted 9 focus groups during August and September 2019 in Detroit, Michigan, San Antonio, Texas, and Los Angeles, California among individuals who said they were unlikely to answer the census to gain insights into perceptions about the Census among communities traditionally hard-to-count. Between October 3 and October 24, we conducted an online survey with 1,499 members of the general population, with oversample of 300 English-Speaking Latinos, 300 Spanish-Speaking Latinos, 400 Muslim Americans, and 200 Asian Americans. The margin of error for the general population is +/-2.5%, and the margin of error is higher for the different subgroups

Comparable Surveys

Pew Research Center

  • Conducted: September 16-29, 2019
  • Audience: N = 6,878

Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Survey U.S. Census Bureau

  • Conducted: February – April 2018
  • Audience: N = 17,500 respondents, oversampled Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and other small-sample races


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