NEWS21 December 2022

US Census Bureau told to provide panel details to congress

News North America Public Sector

US – The US congress has instructed the US Census Bureau to provide more transparency on its Ask US Panel project following requests from the Insights Association.

US Congress

In its 2023 fiscal year appropriations bill, congress included language that demanded the Census Bureau provide a report to the congressional committee within 90 days about the methodology, data collection processes, implementation, costs and procurement strategy behind the Ask US Panel.

The Ask US Panel is a probability-based nationwide representative survey panel for tracking public opinion that has been trialled since earlier this year

Eligible households and individuals who join the panel answer surveys about food and nutrition, transportation, employment, education and other subjects, as well as receiving monetary compensation for the surveys they complete.

However, the panel has proved controversial in some quarters, with the Insights Association having opposed it on the grounds of it being more expensive than buying services from existing online research panel providers.

The house of representatives and US senate are likely to pass the bill and send it to US President Joe Biden for signature by 23rd December.

Howard Fienberg, senior vice-president advocacy at the Insights Association, said that congress had recognised “the grave problems presented by the Ask US Panel survey project” and was correct to request further transparency from the Census Bureau on the project.

He added: “This Census Bureau plan to develop their own probability-based online research panel has never made any fiscal sense, given that multiple private sector insights companies and organisations already offer well-established high-quality online panels, including probability-based ones, and could provide those services to the federal government at a fraction of the cost of this foolhardy project.

 “The Census Bureau, with this project, has been trying to compete with the private sector – funding an additional insights firm to build an online panel that will be used to compete against the rest of the insights industry using intellectual property funded directly by federal taxpayers.

“This clearly violates a common-sense ‘Yellow Pages test’: why would you pay a premium for government to provide a service that could already be easily and affordably purchased in the open market?”