Recent Polling on Perceptions of the 2020 US Census

To:  Interested Parties

From:  Quadrant Strategies, on behalf of Article 1

Date:  November 2019

Re:  Recent polling on perceptions of the 2020 US Census, with a particular focus on counting children

Over the past month we conducted an online survey across the US with several different audiences. The purpose of this survey was to understand how key audiences feel about the 2020 Census, identify what message themes are resonating and why, and pinpoint which people and/or organizations are the most effective messengers to communicate these themes.

For the purposes of this memo, we will focus on respondents who have children in order to understand people’s knowledge of and intent to count children in the 2020 Census. This sample examines 768 members of the general population, including 194 English-Speaking Latinos, 238 Spanish-Speaking Latinos, 359 Muslim Americans, 160 African Americans, 101 Asian Americans, and 288 Young Adults that have children and/or babies in their household. The margin of error for the general population is +/-3.54%, and it’s higher for the different subgroups.

Executive Summary

Misinformation and a lack of knowledge are standing in the way of everyone being counted in the 2020 Census ‒ especially when it comes to young children.

Muslims are the most at risk of not counting their children, and they should be top priority for education and persuasion campaigns. They’re most likely to think the Census doesn’t count children and the most likely to say they personally won’t count their children.

In addition, there’s a particular risk that children will not get counted in Young Adult and African American households. A significant portion of these audiences don’t know whether the Census counts all children in the household.

Thus, it will be imperative to educate these groups about who should and should not be counted in the Census and inform them about what happens if children are not counted. But it’s not enough to simply tell people about how the Census benefits children ‒ we need to explicitly communicate that children should be counted in the Census.

Note: We didn’t test messaging focused on children in this survey. In future studies, it may be worth testing which messaging is most effective in educating people that they should count children, especially younger children and babies.

Key Takeaways

Most people say they’re familiar with the Census, but when we look at how much audiences actually know, we see a lot of misinformation — especially about counting children in the Census. While most people who have children know they should count them, 1 in 3 either don’t know or are misinformed.

  • And this misinformation is particularly prominent among Young Adults, African Americans, and Muslims. Over 40% of Young Adults and African Americans either don’t think or don’t know that the Census counts all children and / or babies in the household. Muslims are the most misinformed group — 22% think that the Census doesn’t count all the children / babies in the household.


To the best of your knowledge, please indicate whether you think each of the statements applies to the 2020

Census: “The Census counts all children and/or babies that live and sleep in the household most of the time,

regardless of relationship, split time, or temporary status”

Showing % among people who have children in their household

Note: Estimates reported in this chart were rounded to whole numbers so the sum of estimates equals 100%


Census Counts Graph

And while most people who have children are planning to count them in the 2020 Census, there’s still a high number of people who are not, especially among Muslims. 54% of Muslims with kids plan to count only themselves or only the adults in the household in the 2020 Census (no children).


If you were filling out the 2020 Census form for your household (people living in your home), who would you include?

Showing % “Adults, children and/or babies, not including extended family” among those who have children in their household


COPAFS Planning to count aduls and children in 2020 Census

COPAFS Pre-Post 2020 Census Graph

The good news is that Muslims and African Americans want to learn more. 53% of Muslims and 49% African Americans are “very interested” in learning more about the US Census. Spanish-Speaking Latinos are particularly interested, while Young Adults are not, and therefore will require a more concerted outreach effort.


Based on what you know now, how interested are you in learning more about the US Census?

Showing % across audiences who have children in their household

Note: Estimates reported in this chart were rounded to whole numbers so the sum of estimates equals 100%

COPAFS Interest in Census Graph

There isn’t a main go-to source for information about the Census. People tend to rely primarily on what they remember from the previous Census, which emphasizes the importance of education. The primary source for information about the Census is past experience taking the Census, and only 1 in 3 of the respondents with children is looking to their past experience for information. This is followed by potentially unreliable sources, such as social media, friends, and family.


Which of the following, if any, have you used to get your information on the Census? Select all that apply.

Showing % among Gen Pop who have children in their household


COPAFS Sources for those interested in learning about Census