Census public engagement campaign 2022 – extension activity (April to May 2022): evaluation report

An overview of the Scotland's Census 2022 public engagement campaign extension (April to May 2022), including independent evaluation results.

4. Campaign development and key audience insights

Extensive research was undertaken before the census to uncover audience insight to inform the development of the campaign to ensure it was evidence-led. This included desk research and in-depth quantitative and qualitative research, including an exploration of campaigns used in other countries, measurement of baseline awareness and knowledge of the census and research to understand barriers and motivators to completion.

Further desk research and qualitative research were carried out at the end of 2020, to assess how attitudes and barriers may have changed due to the pandemic, in addition to creative testing to identify the most effective approach to creative execution.

The overarching line developed from the research 'Getting the right things out, starts with filling it in.' was carried through into the extension campaign activity which was not only informed by the original insight gathering referenced above but also by emerging findings from the quantitative evaluation of the first phase of the campaign and by small-scale qualitative research undertaken to understand the reasons why people who had not yet completed the census had not done so[1].

This small-scale qualitative research consisted of a total of 29 mini-depth interviews carried out specifically with individuals who had not completed by the time the census was originally due to close: this research was carried out at the point at which c.80% of the population had completed the census – and so these findings only relate to the remaining 20%, and will not be representative of all of those due to the small numbers involved and as some people are unlikely to be picked up by mainstream research.

From across these sources, insights and their implications for the campaign included the following:

  • From the small-scale qualitative research described above with those who had not completed by the start of May, reasons given in the research for delayed completion were rarely singular and usually a combination of factors. Main reasons given included the following:
    • Having other priorities/too busy to complete
    • Lack of knowledge of its importance/of why it takes place
    • Form found to be difficult/time consuming/dislike of form filling
    • Lack of understanding of the process or obligation to complete[2].
  • Other reasons mentioned by lower numbers included distrust in the government/political reasons, concern about LGBTQ+ /personal questions, data security concerns, digital barriers and timing (not suitable (for example school holidays), backlash from politicians who at the time were under criticism for breaking COVID rules)[2].
  • Some saw completing the census as a chore that would not benefit them. Those who had not prioritised completion often had busy lifestyles and heavy family commitments.
  • Both the qualitative research and the quantitative evaluation research suggested that the census was on the radar for the vast majority of people, albeit with some lack of understanding and confusion about what was required. This highlighted that additional communications were needed but had a good foundation on which to build.
  • Given that awareness of the legal requirement was good, it was felt to be appropriate to stress the fine as soon as it was possible – messaging about which had already been carried in household specific materials issued by NRS.
  • The research also suggested a clear need to step up the urgency and make very clear the timeframe for completion.
  • There was evidence to suggest that there were still people who needed help and support: so there was a requirement to keep communicating that paper was an option; where to get a form/online link if they didn't have their letter; how to get help/support with filling it in.
  • Given some of the concerns that existed, the research suggested that reassurance that the census can be completed quickly and easily would help.
  • The research also made clear that ongoing work to demonstrate the benefits would still be helpful.
  • In terms of specific groups:
  • The initial quantitative evaluation research showed that the minority ethnic respondents were less likely to be well informed about the census and what was required and therefore any further on the ground support from stakeholder organisations would be invaluable.
  • Among young people living away from home, there was more uncertainty about completion than among other groups – suggesting that further nudges would help to push them over the line.
  • Among the low income sample, a clear lack of trust was identified. They were also more likely to need support. Realisation of the plans for the face-to-face fieldwork to provide help and support on the doorstep was therefore felt to be critical to addressing this issue.
  • Among parents of young children, the qualitative research suggested that other priorities and lack of time were the key barriers to not having completed yet and communications needed to address these.


Email: Nicola.Clark-Tonberg@gov.scot

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