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Report: Most in county ‘very likely’ to fill out census

On Monday, The Alabama Counts! 2020 Census Committee released research that reveals the motivating factors contributing to census participation, as well as the likelihood of participation in counties across Alabama.

“It’s important for us to understand each county’s odds of participating in the census as well as accompanying motivations in order to understand how we can increase participation in apathetic areas,” said Alabama Counts! Chair and Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Director Kenneth Boswell. “We can be more intentional in our outreach and education efforts in areas where we see the biggest need.”

In Dallas County, which is identified as a “mostly urban” county, the research indicates that 36 percent of residents are “extremely likely” to participate in the upcoming census and 46 percent are “very likely.”

Only 10 percent of Dallas County residents were counted as “somewhat likely” to participate and 8 percent were found “unlikely” to participate.

The county breakdown also shows that 55 percent, almost 22,500 people, of Dallas County residents “live in hard-to-count neighborhoods” and lists the chief reasons for not participating locally are laziness, fear of deportation or other consequences and a lack of understanding the importance of the census.

The study also shows that the most effective messaging in Dallas County centers around conferring that Alabama stands to lose some $13 billion in federal funding as a result of an inaccurate count, as well as the fact that the local government would be less equipped to address community changes.

“Historically, around 60 percent of Alabamians have responded to the U.S. Census and that number lines up with people that said ‘extremely likely’ and ‘very likely’ in our research,” Boswell said. “People that were ‘somewhat likely’ are the ones on the fence that we need to motivate to be counted. We have to share with them that it’s safe, quick, easy and matters a great deal to their community.”

More than 40 percent of Alabama’s 67 counties indicated that the primary reason for not filling out the census was a lack of understanding its importance, which Boswell said indicates that people from all regions “need a greater understanding of what’s at stake in regard to the census, as education will heavily influence their decision to fill out their forms.”

Additionally, many respondents reported believing that the census would take more than 12 minutes to fill out – in fact, there are only 10 questions for a head of household, with an additional six per additional person.

Another concern for respondents was the fact that, for the first time in history, people will be able to fill the census out online, with 45 counties showing a negative impression of the change.

“There could be many reasons for this, including distrust of providing online personal information or distrust in a new federal method,” Boswell said. “Regardless, people need to know they can still take the census via historically tried-and-true methods.”

Around March 13, Alabama households will receive a postcard inviting them to complete the 2020 Census via one of three methods – online, over the telephone or on a traditional paper form.

“We encourage everyone to respond during the initial period in the spring,” Boswell said. “The census form is simple to complete and the date provided is private and protected by law.”