More than a third of American households have submitted their response to the 2020 Census, according to the Census Bureau today. Of course, those figures—national, state, and county—will change day by day. But they do suggest the Census has a long way to go. This year, for the first time, households can respond by mail, phone, or online.
The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds Americans still believing participating in the Census is important. Most who have filled out the form or answered online say the questionnaire is easy to answer. But there are some changes based on partisanship that underlie the overall positive reactions.
Fewer this year say instructions for the Census have arrived in their households that said that ten years ago (74% vs 81%), though most Americans in this poll know their households received something from the Census Bureau.
Part of that change may be because many households (54%) say they did not receive a paper questionnaire, only instructions to go to a website. So receiving those instructions may not have registered with them the way a paper questionnaire might. The distribution of paper questionnaires has been done geographically. Paper questionnaires for the 2020 census were sent to a minority of American households, mostly in non-urban areas. The coronavirus epidemic may also have affected Americans’ response and their notice of the Census Bureau’s mailing.
Ten years ago, Barack Obama, a Democrat, was in the White House. Now the incumbent (and the leader of the Executive Branch, which includes the Census Bureau) is a Republican, Donald Trump. Republicans are much happier about the Census (even though they had wanted a question about citizenship added – an addition the Supreme Court rejected last June.).
Americans are slightly more likely to think the government has good reason to ask what it does in the Census – though partisan positions have changed. Ten years ago Republicans were evenly divided on the question, now two-thirds of them say the questions are good ones. Democratic belief in this has dropped 11 points, though still a majority. There is skepticism today among racial minorities, fewer than half of whom say the government has a good reason to ask what it does (perhaps reflecting last year’s debate on including a citizenship question).
A majority of Republicans (56%) and Democrats (66%) agree that it is very important to answer the Census. However, there may be a major concern for the Democratic Party on this question. In this poll, less than half of Hispanic respondents (46%) believe it is very important for them to be counted in the Census.