questionnaire data from 66,163 of the 71,133 submissions were ultimately sent on for processing; about 1,500 online submissions are unaccounted for in the Bureau’s tallies, with “no apparent explanations for this discrepancy” (Whitworth, 2002:???6).

  • 14,926 (16.7 percent) attempts to enter a Census ID were failures. That this proportion matches the approximate 1-in-6 coverage of the census long-form sample is perhaps telling: “since [the Census Bureau] did not advertise the Internet response option, respondents would have also had no idea that long-form households were ineligible.” Hence, “it is quite possible that many, if not most, of the submission failures” were attempts to use the Internet to answer a long-form questionnaire.

Although the vast majority of the Internet responses (98.4 percent) were each associated with only one ID number, there were some repeats of ID numbers: specifically, 1,090 ID numbers had to account for 2,853 responses. Most of these were incidents of 2 or 3 entries per ID and involved a pure replication of the same data; most likely, this was caused by a respondent clicking on the “Submit” button multiple times waiting for the browser page to load. The extreme case was a single ID associated with 17 entries; “many of these were on different days, and many with different data” (Whitworth, 2002:8-9). After final processing, 63,053 households representing 169,257 persons were included in the census through the Internet form.

The Census Bureau evaluation of the Internet response option in 2000 (Whitworth, 2002:17) deemed it “an operational success” and argued for further research:

Obviously, the Internet is here to stay. The software and hardware developed for this program could have handled tens of millions of records instead of the tens of thousands it did handle. It is our recommendation that future research focus not necessarily on how to implement the form itself, but how to promulgate the Internet form as an option and convince the public that there is sufficient data security. Future research should also focus on how to use it as a tool to increase data quality by implementing real-time data feedback and analysis.

Response Mode and Incentive Experiment

Conducted as an experiment in the 2000 census, the Response Mode and Incentive Experiment (RMIE) gauged response rates to the 2000 census questionnaire by paper, interactive voice response (IVR, a fully automated telephone interview), or the Internet. In addition, the test considered whether the offer of an incentive (specifically, a 30-minute telephone calling card) influenced the response rates. The test (including a print of the Internet census form) is documented by Caspar (2003). The Internet usage survey component of the RMIE yielded relatively small numbers of online returns (with or without the incentive of a calling card), and some respondents noted a preference for paper. However, Caspar (2003:21) argued for further work on an online response option:

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