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Comparing Census Bureau Media Coverage and Federal Survey Cooperation: Insights from a Media Listening Tool and Contact History Records

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Working Paper Number rsm2022-06


Few studies in survey literature have examined the relationship between media coverage of the US Census Bureau and participation in Census-administered surveys. While earlier work studied the relationship between negative news coverage and participation in Census surveys, the rise of digital and social media in recent years presents a new approach to examine potential relationships between online discussions about the Census and participation in these surveys. Based on media listening tools that consider professional news reporting as well as public posts online, we first identify the months in each of two years (2018-2019) in which the combined social media discussion and news mentions about the Census Bureau or 2020 Decennial Census was highest. We also use sentiment analysis to examine what assignments (e.g., positive, negative, or neutral) were given to these posts or news coverage. Then using contact history records from a Census survey, we examine whether either of these months showed changes in survey cooperation, or in concerns from respondents or nonrespondents, compared to surrounding months. We found neither month had statistically significant changes in survey cooperation rates; however, both months had significant changes in the rates of particular concern types related to participation in the survey.

Page Last Revised - August 15, 2022
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