After working on the 2010 Census integrated communications campaign for the last three years, reading the front page of today’s USA Today was a very nice moment. There it was, above the fold, in black and white: Census response: 71 % and counting, Participation could beat the 2000 rate.
As the article by Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg points out, the fact that the 2010 Census mail participation rate could surpass the rate in 2000 is a major accomplishment. The United States and its territories proved to be much harder to count this year than 10 years ago due to a number of factors—the sluggish economy, a wave of foreclosures, a more diverse and larger population, to name a few. Also, let’s not forget that trust of the federal government is at its lowest point in 50 years. According to a recent and well-publicized Pew Research Center study, only 22 percent of Americans trust the federal government.
Any one of these barriers alone would have been formidable, but taken together, they seem nearly insurmountable. Why, then, is the Census Bureau beating expectations against all odds? One answer is the 2010 Census integrated communications campaign, which has tirelessly encouraged participation, resulting in a huge win not only for the Bureau, but for American taxpayers. For every one percentage point increase in participation, 85 million in taxpayer dollars are saved. Another reason could be one you almost never hear on talk radio or cable news—perhaps we aren’t as divided as a nation as we’re led to believe. There’s a headline worth reading.