For Immediate Release:
October 26, 1999
FINDS ONLY 42% OF AMERICANS KNOW THE CENSUS WILL BE TAKEN NEXT YEAR: BUT CENSUS
AD CAMPAIGN "ON TARGET."
- With only five months to go before the 2000 census begins, a nonpartisan,
nationwide study conducted for the U.S. Census Monitoring Board has determined
that only 42 percent of Americans are even aware that the decennial population
count will be taken next year. However, the study also concluded that the
Census Bureau's multimillion dollar ad campaign, scheduled to hit the airwaves
next week, should raise awareness levels and, more importantly, effectively
motivate Americans to participate in the census.
of its continuing oversight of census preparations, the Monitoring Board commissioned
a series of focus groups and a national public opinion survey to measure public
attitudes toward the census, and specifically to test the appeal of messages
contained in the Census Bureau's ad campaign.
million ad campaign has been in development for months, and it will be publicly
unveiled for the first time tomorrow.
concerned that only 42% of Americans know the Census is coming," said Monitoring
Board Co-Chair Gilbert F. Casellas. "But I am encouraged that the Census Bureau
will soon be getting the message out and that they have gotten the message
was conducted for the Monitoring Board's Presidential Members by Belden Russonello
& Stewart (BRS), a Democratic firm, in collaboration with Research/Strategy/Management
(R/S/M), a Republican firm.
respondents who need the most motivation to participate in the census, the
survey found that the most effective message is one that emphasizes the census'
role in determining how federal dollars are spent in local communities. Eight
in 10 Americans find it persuasive that, "The Census count helps to determine
how the federal government spends 180 billion dollars, and how much money
each community gets for new schools and other educational programs, money
for health care, emergency services, job training, roads, public transportation,
and many other things." More than half of all respondents -- 52 % -- found
this message a "very" compelling reason for participating in the census, and
indeed this concept is central to the Bureau's advertising campaign, as developed
by the Young & Rubicam agency in New York.
television, radio and print campaign begins next week and will dominate the
U.S. media for the next several months.
exciting ad campaign has to be part of a broad-based strategy to remind Americans
that a complete, fair and accurate census determines how we are represented
and how billions in funds will flow to our communities," said Dr. Everett
M. Ehrlich, former Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs and a Presidential
Member of the Board. "The power of that message is expressed clearly and persuasively
by the results of this study."
also found that a majority of Americans feel anxiety over "confidentiality"
in the Census. Nearly six in 10 Americans worry about answering personal questions
in the census because they do not believe the government will keep their information
the "confidentiality" hurdle will also be addressed by Census advertising.
"I'm glad the Bureau plans to take this issue head on," said Lorraine A. Green,
a Member of the Board. "Americans need to be reassured that the Census Bureau
is bound by law to keep their personal data absolutely confidential. This
is vital to ensuring a complete count next year, and I share my colleagues'
belief that the census ads are on target."
included oversamples of African, Hispanic and Asian Americans to measure any
differences across racial groups. It found that minorities and whites agree
that the return of federal dollars to their communities is an important reason
to answer their census questionnaires. However, there are also some message
distinctions among racial and ethnic groups:
- African and Asian Americans
give dominance to a message about what the census means in practical terms
for their communities;
- Whites and Hispanics
place community needs on a par with a general message about civic responsibility;
- Assurances about confidentiality
find more appeal among Hispanics and Asian Americans than other groups.
Contact: John Chambers,