Testing our national census knowledge | The Numbers Racket

By: - March 16, 2020 6:30 am

©driftwood – stock.adobe.com

Americans know about the census, but they’re hazy on the details, according to a new report. 

The 2020 census began this month for much of the United States, excluding Alaska, which began their census initiatives in January. 

In an effort to understand Americans’ census knowledge and participation methods, the Pew Research Center compiled the following data

Let’s take a look in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.


Despite being rejected by the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans still think a question about citizenship will be on the 2020 census questionnaire. 

56 … the percentage of Americans who think the census will ask about citizenship.

17 … the percentage of Americans who (correctly) think the census will not ask about citizenship.

25 … the percentage of Americans who are unsure if the census will ask about citizenship. 

49% of Latinos think that a citizenship question will be on the questionnaire. 

Of the respondents, 14 percent think the census is used to determine whether or not someone is in the country illegally. 53 percent correctly responded that the census is not used to determine whether someone is in the country legally. Another 31 percent weren’t sure. 


Another misunderstanding, which had respondents split, was on questions of religious affiliation. 

25 percent said they knew they would not be asked about religious affiliation, but 26 percent believed it would be on the questionnaire. Forty-seven percent weren’t sure. 

Preferred response method

For the first time ever, Americans will be able to respond to the census questionnaire online.

Yet, only one-in-five respondents know they have the option to respond online, Pew data showed. 

The survey then asked respondents how they would prefer to answer the census questionnaire. 

60% said they would prefer to respond to the census questionnaire online.

30% said they would prefer to respond to the census questionnaire by mail.

7% said they would prefer to respond to the census questionnaire in person.

2% said they would prefer to respond to the census questionnaire by phone.

Knowledge of census impacts

In the survey, respondents were asked about the purpose and impact of the census. 

59% … Knew that state representation in Congress is apportioned by the census. 

Here’s what’s at stake for Pa. in the 2020 Census: School funding, road repairs and more

In the realm of politics and government, Pew researchers discovered a variance in participation with political affiliation. 

85% … the number of Republicans who said they or someone in their household will definitely submit a census questionnaire. 

80% … the number of Democrats who said the same. 

According to Pew researchers, “That difference holds even when accounting for differences in demographic characteristics of Democratic and Republican partisans.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.