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Census Online Option Preferred by Majority of Households

For the first time in 2020, the United States Census Bureau offers an internet response option for the decennial count, and data from the bureau shows that most Americans responding to the survey are taking it online.

“60% of U.S. households have responded to the 2020 Census,” said a May 27 Census Bureau press release, “with approximately four out of every five households that responded on their own, choosing to do so online at 2020census.gov.”

The internet self-response rates are exceeding the bureau’s own projections by 9.2 percentage points, the release said.

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“So far, we’ve seen the internet self-response option run pretty smoothly and be advantageous to the bureau,” said Nick Marinos,  a director in the Government Accountability Office’s Information Technology and Cybersecurity team, which is monitoring the bureau’s digital operations and providing updates to congressional committees on a monthly basis.

“The reality is that the more people that respond to the census online, the easier that this will be for the census from a technology perspective,” said Marinos, adding that filling out the form reduces the number of people and the amount of technology needed to follow up with anyone who didn’t respond.

After analyzing Census Bureau data obtained on June 1, several key trends became clear.

Of the 52 states and territories for which there is data (Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are also included), 22 states have an internet response rate of over 50 percent. The top five states with the highest overall self-response rates are all in the Midwest, (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska) and all five have internet response rates of over 50 percent.

Six of the top seven states with the largest margin between their overall response rates and internet response rates are in the South (Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana). None of those six states have an internet response rate above 48 percent. Each of those six states have an overall response rate at least 15 percentage points higher than their internet response rate.

Only four states or territories have an overall response rate of less than 50 percent (New Mexico, West Virginia, Alaska, and Puerto Rico). All four have internet response rates of less than 40 percent. Beginning in August, Census takers are scheduled to visit households that have not yet responded to the survey, the bureau’s press release said.

The bureau has also asked Congress for statutory relief on its December 31, 2020 deadline to deliver data to the president because of the coronavirus. While the HEROES Act passed by the House in May provides the bureau an extension, the deadline has not yet been changed.

Dwight Weingarten
About Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.