The U.S. Census Bureau is experimenting with an online panel to serve the research needs of the federal government.
The “Ask U.S. Panel” (originally announced in a Census Bureau blog in September 2020) will be designing, building and maintaining “an address-based, probability-based online research panel that will be available for robust public opinion and methodological research by statistical agencies and nonprofit organizations for the common good.”
The phase 1 pilot test, in 2022, will recruit and survey 1,700 people “as a proof-of-concept to refine methods.” Phase 2 will recruit and survey 17,000 more people “using methodology refined during Phase 1.“
The online panel project builds upon the Bureau’s experimentation during the pandemic with rapid-response data, resulting in the pulse surveys of households and small businesses.
According to a notice in the Federal Register, federal contractor RTI will use their address-based frame to “probability sample… with oversamples of specific populations of interest, including households who face food insecurity and households who speak Spanish as a first language. A separate sample of active-duty military members and active-duty military spouses will also be recruited from a frame provided by the Department of Defense. In the pilot, potential panelists will be mailed invitations and asked to participate in an online or inbound telephone screener. If the household qualifies, two members will be randomly sampled and invited to join the panel by completing the baseline questionnaire in the same mode (online or inbound telephone). Households who do not respond to the mailed invitation will be in sample for a face-to-face nonresponse follow up. In these cases, an interviewer would administer the screener and the baseline questionnaire. Participating households who do not have stable internet access will be offered a tablet device with cell service for the duration of the panel to facilitate participation. Panelists will be eligible for online topical surveys no more than once a month once they join the panel for up to 3 years. These methods may be refined between the pilot and the build-out of the panel.”
From the perspective of federal contractors in the insights industry, this experiment may prove helpful in their ongoing discussions with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB sets the approval requirements for research in the U.S. government.
NewsGovernment AffairsHoward Fienberg, CAE – The Insights Association