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General Social Survey (GSS)

guide to accessing and using the General Social Survey data and related data and literature

About the General Social Survey

This guide provides information for using the General Social Survey (GSS) and finding GSS and related data and literature for analysis.  There are resources to help find data and variables of interest, search the literature to formulate the research question, to analyze the data, and to write up results. Related Temple Libraries research guides are listed at the bottom.

The information and links from the GSS that have been added to this guide may have been updated since this guide was written, so always check the GSS website for any updates and changes.

What is the General Social Survey (GSS)?

GSS General Social Survey LogoOverview and Scope

The General Social Survey (GSS) is a nationally representative survey of adults in the United States conducted since 1972. The GSS collects data on contemporary American society in order to monitor and explain trends in opinions, attitudes and behaviors. The GSS has adapted questions from earlier surveys, thereby allowing researchers to conduct comparisons for up to 80 years.

The GSS contains a standard core of demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal questions that is repeated each round, plus topics of special interest that may be conducted only once, such as in a sponsored module, or repeated. Among the topics covered are civil liberties, crime and violence, intergroup tolerance, morality, national spending priorities, psychological well-being, social mobility, and stress and traumatic events. Each GSS since 1985 also includes an International Social Survey Program (ISSP) module that cover role of government, social networks, social inequality, religion, family and gender, work orientation, environment, national identity, citizenship, leisure and sports, and health and health care.  The cross-national survey models are repeated from earlier modules on the subject covered.  The variables are harmonized to allow for cross-country comparison.

The GSS is a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, with principal funding from the National Science Foundation.  The GSS aims to make high-quality data easily accessible to scholars, students, policy-makers, and others, with minimal cost and waiting. All GSS data is free to download on the GSS website and can be opened by common statistical software packages, such as SPSS, STATA, SAS and R. Data can also be explored and analyzed online with the Data Explorer.

More information on the GSS methodology, time period, codebooks, quick website links and video series.

Related Guides

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Find a subject guide relevant to your topic or issue to get recommended databases and other sources to search for data and scholarly books, articles and empirical research.

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Van Tran
Charles Library