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CLOSUP report: Local jurisdictions, particularly Michigan's largest, actively encourage census participation

Thursday, August 5, 2010

More than half of Michigan's local governments actively encouraged their citizens to complete their U.S. Census forms this year, helping the state rank fifth nationwide in participation rates, a new survey shows.

Maximizing participation in the census is important because, according to the Census Bureau, the responses help determine how more than $400 billion is allocated annually in federal funding for hospitals, job training centers, schools, emergency services, senior centers, transportation infrastructure, and other public services.

Michigan's participation rate of 77 percent is higher than the national average of 72 percent, according census figures.

MPPS is conducted by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association. The MPPS investigates local officials' opinions on a variety of public policy issues and solicits information about their localities relevant to policymaking.

The findings appear in the latest Michigan Public Policy Survey.

The survey asked Michigan's local government leaders if their jurisdictions did anything specific to encourage census participation among their residents. Overall, 54 percent of Michigan jurisdictions report working actively to promote the census.

More than 70 percent of the state's largest jurisdictions (with populations greater than 10,000 residents) took such actions, compared to only 41 percent of the state's smallest communities.

In addition, 62 percent of Michigan's counties and three-quarters (74 percent) of its cities reported taking specific actions this past spring to promote participation in the U.S. Census count.

Although officials from townships and villages were less likely to report that they took specific actions, many of these jurisdictions are quite small, with fewer employees and lower capacity to take on additional activities, MPPS reported. The fact that nearly half of these jurisdictions still took specific actions is notable.

Among the most frequently used approaches by local governments to promote participation were direct outreach to individual citizens, general promotion through traditional media like newspapers and cable television as well as through new media sources like Facebook and websites. They also worked with local schools, universities and businesses, neighboring governments, and the Census Bureau itself.

More than six in 10 (63 percent) mentioned some kind of direct outreach to citizens, including mailings, emails, fliers, messages included with utility bills/tax statements, word of mouth, and going door-to-door in the community.

Jurisdictions in Southeastern Michigan were the most likely to actively encourage citizen response to the Census, with more 71 percent reporting they had specific measures in place.

Respondents for the MPPS include county administrators and board chairs, city mayors and managers, village presidents and managers, and township supervisors, clerks, and managers from more than 1,300 jurisdictions statewide.