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Unformatted text preview: 237 n Chapter 10 Abstract Very little information exists concerning public attitudes on the topic of data sharing among Federal agencies. The most extensive information prior to 1995 comes from questions on several IRS surveys of taxpayers, from questions added to a series of Wisconsin surveys carried out in 1993-95, and from scattered other surveys reviewed by Blair (1995) for the National Academy of Sciences panels. From this review it is clear that the public is not well informed about what data sharing actually entails, nor about the meaning of confidentiality. It seems likely that opinions on this topic are not firmly held and liable to change depending on other information stipulated in the survey questions as well as on other features of the current social climate. In the spring of 1995, the Survey Research Center at the University of Maryland (JPSM) car- ried out a random digit dialing (RDD) national survey which was focused on the issue of data sharing. The Maryland survey asked questions designed to probe the public's understanding of the Census Bureau's pledge of confidentiality and their confidence in that pledge. Respondents were also asked how they felt about the Census Bureau's obtaining some information from other gov- ernment agencies in order to improve the decennial count, reduce burden, and reduce cost. In ad- dition, in an effort to understand responses to the data sharing questions, the survey asked about attitudes toward government and about privacy in general. Then, in the fall of 1996, Westat, Inc. repeated the JPSM survey and, in addition, added a number of split-ballot experiments to permit better understanding of some of the responses to the earlier survey. This paper examines public attitudes toward the Census Bureau's use of other agencies' administrative records. It analyzes the relationship of demographic characteristics to these attitudes as well as the interrelationship of trust in government, attitudes toward data shar- ing, and general concerns about privacy. It also reports on trends in attitudes between 1995 and 1996 and on the results of the question-wording experiments imbedded in the 1996 survey. Impli- cations are drawn for potential reactions to increased use of administrative records by the Census Bureau. Introduction or a variety of reasons, government agencies are attempting to satisfy some of their needs for informa- tion about individuals by linking administrative records which they and other agencies already possess. Some of the reasons for record linkage have to do with more efficient and more economical data collec- tion, others with a desire to reduce the burden on respondents, and still others with a need to improve cov- erage of the population and the quality of the information obtained....
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- Spring '10