European Social Survey

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The European Social Survey (ESS) is a social scientific endeavour to map the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of the various populations in Europe.
ESS is listed in the Registry of Research Data Repositories[1]


The ESS was initiated by the European Science Foundation. One of the reasons to start this new time series of social scientific data was that existing cross-national attitude surveys were regarded as not of sufficient methodological rigour to draw on as reliable sources for knowledge about changes over time in Europe. Starting in 2002 the survey has been held every two years in many European countries, with round 6 (2012) covering 30 nations.


The questionnaires consist of a core module, which is repeated each round. In addition to the core module each round contains rotating modules on specific themes.

The core module covers the following topics:

  • Media
  • Trust in institutions
  • Political engagement
  • Socio-political values
  • Moral and social values
  • Social capital
  • Subjective well-being
  • Social exclusion
  • National, ethnic, religious identity
  • Well-being, health and security
  • Demographic composition
  • Education and occupation
  • Financial circumstances
  • Household circumstances

The various rounds of the ESS contained the following rotating modules:

Round 1 (2002)

Round 2 (2004)

  • Family, Work & Well-Being
  • Opinions on Health & Care Seeking
  • Economic Morality in Europe: Market Society & Citizenship

Round 3 (2006)

  • Personal & Social Well-being: Creating indicators for a flourishing Europe
  • The Timing of Life: The organisation of the life course in Europe

Round 4 (2008)

  • Experiences and Expressions of Ageism
  • Welfare attitudes in a changing Europe

Round 5 (2010)

  • Work, Family and Well-being: The Implications of Economic Recession
  • Trust in Criminal Justice: A Comparative European Analysis

Round 6 (2012)

  • Personal and Social Well-being
  • Europeans' understandings and evaluations of democracy


In 2005 the ESS was the winner of the Descartes Prize, an annual European science award.[2]


  • Roger Jowell, Caroline Roberts, Rory Fitzgerald, Gillian Eva (ed.): Measuring Attitudes Cross-Nationally. Lessons from the European Social Survey, Sage Publications, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4129-1981-4


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