Initial Research Overview: Public Awareness of 811

Public Awareness of Call-Before-You-Dig Reaches All-Time High as Likelihood to Dig Increased 16% Year-over-Year

The Common Ground Alliance recently completed its 2020 public awareness research examining Americans’ understanding of the call-before-you-dig (CBYD) service and process. CGA is looking forward to releasing the full findings from its summer 2020 awareness research via a member webinar later this fall. In the meantime, CGA’s Initial Research Overview of public awareness data shares selected topline findings of our ongoing effort to gauge the effectiveness of our critical safety message to the general public.

Key Findings

The public’s awareness of CBYD services reached its all-time high in 2020, with 50% of the more than 1,800 U.S. adults surveyed reporting that they are aware of a free national phone number and service that people can contact to have underground utilities marked prior to starting a digging project.

Importantly, respondents who have a yard, those who have previously completed a digging project and those who are planning future projects all had even higher levels of CBYD awareness: 56% awareness among those with yards, 79% awareness among recent diggers and 75% awareness among those with plans to dig. Overall, 16% of respondents reported that their likelihood to dig this year was higher than last year -- a finding that corresponds with an increase in homeowner locate requests reported by some members during the pandemic. 

The trend of increasing awareness continues as we look specifically at aided and unaided recall of the 811 number: 10% of those surveyed were able to recall the 811 number unaided, or without any prompting (a 3% increase compared to 2018), and 43% said that 811 sounded familiar when prompted (e.g., unaided recall, a 7% increase over 2018). These increases suggest that the 811 brand is continuing to grow.

For the first time, surveyed respondents were asked about whether they have seen the 811 logo, with 33% reporting familiarity with the mark. Although more than a quarter of respondents reported having seen or heard 811 advertisements (28%), 811 advertising awareness has trended downward since 2016, which could be a result of the cluttered media landscape. Again, when looking at people most likely to dig, awareness of 811 advertising is significantly higher: 34% among respondents with yards, 57% among those who have previously completed a digging project and 61% among those who are planning future projects, indicating that advertising efforts are likely being targeted to the right audiences.

The 2020 awareness survey also indicated that respondents used 811 services at the highest rate to-date (14%). An additional 10% of respondents reported having used a CBYD service for a combined system usage of nearly a quarter of those surveyed (24% combined). Of those who have contacted 811 or CBYD, the vast majority did so by phone (68%), while fewer than a quarter (23%) did so online. Among all respondents, only 19% were aware that requests can be made online. Of those aware of the ability to make requests online, 40% of respondents who had used the service made their requests via the web, but the majority (60%) still preferred to call.

In examining likelihood to utilize 811 in the future, 70% of respondents said they were likely to contact 811 before a digging project, for an increase of 6 points since 2018. Critically, among those most likely to need the service, intent to use 811 was significantly higher: 78% of those with yards said they were likely to use 811, 91% of respondents who have previously completed a project are likely to use 811 in the future and a whopping 92% of those who are planning a future project will use 811.


COMING SOON: 2020 Public Awareness Webinar

CGA is looking forward to sharing more details on these topline findings from our 2020 public awareness research, as well as additional data points from the national survey and some results from state-level awareness surveys on a member webinar slated for fall 2020. Please stay tuned for updates.

Survey Methodology

CGA partnered with a market research vendor to execute an online survey from July 27-Aug. 5, 2020, among 1,809 adults (aged 18+) throughout the U.S. and evenly distributed across the census regions. The margin of error for the nationwide sample is +/- 2.3%

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