Research impact on public services is expected to be reduced if fewer Americans, U.S. citizens and non-citizens, participate in Census 2020. According to Wall Street Journal reporting, April 22, 2019 “Searching for Answers: Census Case Points to Falling Survey-Response Rates” by Janet Adamy and Josh Zumbrun, Americans are growing reluctant to answer government surveys.
Academic experts who conduct surveys point to the increased frequency of surveys, which in some cases are disguised marketing efforts. “It’s harder for people to sort out what’s important and what’s not.”
One example of lower participation: response to a government survey used to calculate inflation that asks Americans to track their spending on goods and services dropped from 86% in 1985 to 61% today. The impact on accuracy is negative.
The State of Missouri stands to lose $1,272 per uncounted Census 2020 resident in Federal funds for programs including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Highway Planning and Construction Program. Missourians who lack high speed internet and/or an email account in rural areas are especially likely to be undercounted.
How should organizations who need accurate information about customer behavior and attitudes combat low response rates? Stakeholder Insights suggests:
1. Review your internal customer or member data first (purchase behavior data, response to digital communications, inquiries, applications, ecommerce data, audience size). What does it tell you about who is interested, what they buy most, what they want to know most frequently?
2. Look for related existing data in government and other data resources like Federal, state and local government websites. Industry or trade associations that your organization may belong to are often already tracking what you need.
3. Ask trusted community-based gatekeepers (health care providers, teachers, community organization leaders, block association presidents, et. al.) how to reach audiences suspicious of surveys or unable to respond to online surveys. Engage them helping to poll their customers or members about their needs and interests.
4. Observe behavior yourself. Which digital communications or other types of product or service offerings yield the highest response rates, purchase, traffic? Can a few of those recent buyers tell you what they most like about your offering? How it compares to competitor offerings?
5. When conducting a survey, tell those you’d like to respond:
a. Why it’s important: how will the survey information be used to hopefully improve their lives and those of their family and friends?
b. Promise a report back to them promptly on several key findings so they can learn what their time and thinking produced. Tell them what decisions the data is helping to make. It will increase their level of trust and engagement with your organization.