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Open Government

Messaging Advice for the Census Bureau

With or without a citizenship question, there may be significant resistance to the legal requirement that everyone in the country in April 2020 complete the census. A study by Civis Analytics, a data science software and consultancy, found 21 percent of Americans saying they are "not likely" to answer the census and 35 percent saying they aren't likely to encourage anyone else to do so.

The firm – created by Dan Wagner, the top data guru for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign – also had some marketing advice for the Census Bureau: Framing a public relations campaign around making the census a "civic duty" could improve response rates 8 percent. Reminding people that an accurate census ensures proper allocation of House seats to the states would help response rates about 5 percent, while stressing the head count's role in allocating government dollars would help by 3 percent.

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