2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Study

March 26, 2019

U.S. Census Bureau

The 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study (CBAMS) is foundational research the U.S. Census Bureau conducted in support of the 2020 Census Integrated Partnership and Communications Program. Results from this study drive creative strategy and media planning to show how to reach all populations, including segments that are historically hard to count, and which types of messages may be most effective.

CBAMS results are summarized in two reports: 1) the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study Survey Report ​and 2) the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators Study Focus Group Final Report. Both reports reveal a lack of understanding of the purpose and process of the census associated with five primary barriers to participation:
  • Concerns about data privacy and confidentiality
  • Fear of repercussions
  • Distrust in all levels of government
  • A lack of efficacy
  • Belief that completing the census could not benefit respondents personally.
Certain demographic characteristics, including education, age, and race/ethnicity, are also related to low levels of intent to self-respond to the census. 

The study also identified motivators of self-response. Participants might be persuaded of the importance and purpose of the census if they make the connection between completing a census form and the possibility of an increase in funding or support for their community, notably in support of critical institutions, organizations, and services.

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