Census to offer Internet option in gov't surveys

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the first time, the Census Bureau is giving U.S. households a chance to respond to government surveys over the Internet, part of a bid to save costs and boost sagging response rates.

The new online option will supplement the traditional mail operation. It's a major shift for the agency, which has relied almost exclusively on paper forms since 1970.

Beginning this week, more than 3 million U.S. households will be asked to respond to the American Community Survey online. Households that don't respond will receive paper surveys.

The Census Bureau said it is hoping to tap into the changing habits of Americans, especially younger adults, who are increasingly turning to computers, tablets and smartphones for communications. The government has struggled with decreasing response rates due to perceived inconvenience.