The Russell Sage Foundation, together with six other foundations, commissioned Knowledge Networks (formerly InterSurvey, Inc.) to track the American public's exposure through advertising, community mobilization, and news stories to Census 2000. Knowledge Networks also assessed whether greater exposure corresponded with higher rates of participation in the census. Knowledge Networks which was founded as InterSurvey by Stanford University professors Norman H. Nie and Douglas Rivers -- administers surveys over the Internet using a large national panel of households. To ensure the panel is representative of the nation, Knowledge Networks provides internet access (and WebTV) to respondents who lack it. Nie and Jane Junn, consultant from Rutgers University, surveyed 4, 673 Americans on a weekly basis between March 3, and April 13, 2000.
The survey had some positive findings: the Census 2000 promotion and mobilization campaign increased the public's awareness and knowledge of the census, especially among African-American and Hispanic households targeted by the Bureau. Furthermore, this greater awareness did translate into higher rates of participation and completion of the long form. The Census Bureau's mobilization campaign was not the only source of publicity for Census 2000, however. The census long form became the subject of widely publicized controversy, with suggestions that it was both burdensome and a violation of privacy. The survey showed that the percentage of people who deemed the census an invasion of privacy doubled from 10 percent to 20 percent in the month leading up to census day. Questions about income and physical or mental disabilities were deemed the most sensitive. Respondents concerned about privacy were significantly less likely to return their census forms, although greater exposure to the Census 2000 mobilization campaign tempered this effect.