Census 2016 – a total stuff up or a storm in a tea cup?

Census 2016 – a total stuff up or a storm in a tea cup?

What the statistics are telling us about South Australians’ experience. It’s better than you’d expect.

The 9 August 2016, may go down in history as one of the most bungled attempts at collecting data in the country’s history; not to mention the ongoing source of entertainment for many a breakfast radio host and internet troll. As research specialists, the collection of data is close to our hearts. We understand the value of tracking trends, keeping on top of technology and of course, utilising a robust and trustworthy methodology to obtain data. The whole 2016 Census debacle sparked our interest, particularly with the level of public outcry and conversations floating around the variety of media channels.

So what has the wash up been? Did Australians forgive the sluggish and unreliable technology or the evil hackers? Did we believe the rhetoric from the ABS or prefer to buy into the conspiracy theories floating around? Are we happy to continue to allow Woolworths, Facebook, Priceline to own and utilise our personal data for sales related activity but not the Government for future planning? We at McGregor Tan are a curious bunch and so asked the South Australian population what their experience was like and had they completed the 2016 Census? (source McGregor Tan August 2016 Omnibus Survey).

Surprisingly 55% of respondents had filled the Census in by the 9 August (38% online and 17% paper). From the 45% who didn’t over a third tried, but couldn’t get onto the website or submit their survey once completed. One in ten South Australians just didn’t get to it; life is busy, particularly it seems for males who made up the largest proportion of this group.

For those people who had not completed the Census on or by the 9 August, more than half of them deserve a gold star, as they have now done so. The majority of the rest of the people who responded, intend to do so in the near future, and tut tut 3% of respondents have no intention to complete the Census at all.

How did people feel about their Census experience? Many memes will tell you they were going “senseless”, people were “incensed”, but from our respondents 43% stated they had a good experience, in fact 17% said it was excellent. This happy bunch were most likely aged 65+ and were not in paid work, many of them used the paper based method. One might draw the conclusion they did not use the website at a peak time thus didn’t encounter the same issues as others did after 5pm on 9 August 2016. The bad news is that over a quarter of people were unhappy with their experience. The highest proportion of these despondent respondents were aged 31-39 years who also made up the largest portion of people who couldn’t submit their results on the 9 August- you’d be frustrated too.

So the wrap up of the 2016 Census debacle looks better than expected. The vast majority of South Australian have now completed the survey, or intend to do so in the near future, and almost half said their experience was good or excellent. This doesn’t negate the fact that many people felt they had a poor or very poor experience and that the lead up to and the follow up of this research has been a huge learning for the Government and population alike. For what it’s worth, in addition to collecting up to date data regarding the Australian population, the 2016 Census has raised questions regarding privacy, information sharing, technology, cyber terrorism, communications, advertising and uncovered Australia’s passion for meme creation. We at McGregor Tan look forward to the 2020 Census and wait with baited breath to see if the data collection method has sufficiently evolved by then.

NB: The McGregor Tan Household Omnibus has been in operation for over 30 years and surveys a representative sample of the South Australian population. In each survey, 400 people, selected on a random probability design guided by age and gender quotas to ensure that each and every adult in the metropolitan area may have an equal chance of being selected. Where deemed necessary to provide for an additional level of statistical validity, the raw data maybe weighted to ensure consistency with known population data from reputable sources such as the ABS.

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