A new research study about the 2020 Census found 58 percent of respondents will “definitely” participate, but that more than 4 in 10 remain unsure – a comparable ratio from the 2010 and 2000 counts.

The survey, conducted by Quadrant Research and released by the nonprofit organization Article 1, found “deep levels of general mistrust of government driving the lack of participation among many that is undermining census participation.” For instance, 49 percent of respondents agreed that: “The government will do whatever it wants regardless of the data.” (More than half of respondents among Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims and the youngest age group agreed as well.)

The decennial census is critical for many purposes, including the Constitutional purpose of drawing Congressional districts and determining Electoral College counts, allocating federal funding across the country, and, most importantly for the marketing research and data analytics industry, providing the baseline for statistically representative research studies.

Article 1’s findings demonstrate that younger Americans represent the toughest challenge in 2020 counting. In the 18-24 year old age group, a mere 29 percent said they will participate; for those 25-35 years old, it was 52 percent (better, but well below the national average).

The Article 1 study tested messages intended to help motivate 2020 Census participation. “Overall, emotional messaging that speaks to empowerment and creating a true picture of the country is very appealing ‒ nearly half of those surveyed saying each of those messages makes them much more likely to participate,” according to Article 1.

Ken Prewitt of Article 1, himself a former director of the Census Bureau during the 2000 Census, said that, “headwinds particular to the times notwithstanding,” every census “has refreshed a unique truth-telling tool of our democracy, designed to equip the people to take stock of how well their needs are being tended to by those it has trusted with the powers of government. And, so it will be in 2020.”

Memo from Article 1: “Recent polling on perceptions of the 2020 US Census