Confidence in the accuracy of Michigan’s 2020 Census count among local leaders was not very high, slips further

August 25, 2020

This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s local government leaders regarding the 2020 U.S. Census, including their confidence in the potential accuracy of the count both locally and at the state level, as well as information about local actions to boost census participation among residents. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2020 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), with a comparison to the Spring 2019 and Spring 2010 waves of the MPPS.

Key findings

  • Ideally, confidence in the accuracy of the 2020 U.S. Census count should be very high. However, as of spring 2020, only 5% of Michigan’s local government leaders are very confident that the 2020 Census statewide count will be accurate, unchanged from when they were asked in 2019, while the percentage who are somewhat confident has declined from 56% to 51%. Meanwhile, the percentage who are not very confident or not at all confident has increased from 30% last year to 34% today.
  • Local leaders’ confidence in the accuracy of their own local community count is somewhat higher, but also down compared to expectations when asked in 2019. Overall, 15% are very confident (unchanged from last year) while 58% are somewhat confident, down from 64% when asked a year ago. Meanwhile, one in five (20%) are either not very confident (15%) or not confident at all (5%) in the accuracy of 2020 Census counts in their own jurisdictions, up from 14% last year.
    • In 2020, officials from rural jurisdictions are less likely to be very confident in the Census count in their jurisdictions (only 13%) compared to more suburban (22%) or urban (20%) officials. However, confidence has declined the most among urban local leaders compared with last year (a net change of 34 percentage-points). Confidence also continues to be lower and shows greater declines in jurisdictions with larger minority populations compared with less racially-diverse communities.
  • In April and May 2020, more than two-thirds (68%) of Michigan local governments reported taking actions to encourage their residents to complete their Census forms. This is up from 53% who responded similarly during the 2010 Census, and up sharply from 35% who reported planning such actions for this year, when asked in 2019.
    • By far the most common action (59% of jurisdictions statewide) reported is a new option available for the 2020 Census and one particularly suited to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: encouraging residents to complete the Census online. The next most common actions include direct communications to residents (25%) and collaboration with other organizations (17%) to boost residents’ participation.