General Social Survey

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The General Social Survey (GSS) is a sociological survey used to collect data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States. The survey is conducted face-to-face with an in-person interview by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, of adults (18+) in randomly selected households. The survey was conducted every year from 1972 to 1994 (except in 1979, 1981, and 1992). Since 1994, it has been conducted every other year. The survey takes about 90 minutes to administer. As of 2014 30 national samples with 59,599 respondents and 5,900+ variables had been collected. The data collected about this survey includes both demographic information and respondents' opinions on matters ranging from government spending to the state of race relations to the existence and nature of God. Because of the wide range of topics covered, and the comprehensive gathering of demographic information, survey results allow social scientists to correlate demographic factors like age, race, gender, and urban/rural upbringing with beliefs, and thereby determine whether, for example, an average middle-aged black male respondent would be more or less likely to move to a different U.S. state for economic reasons than a similarly situated white female respondent; or whether a highly educated person with a rural upbringing is more likely to believe in a transcendent God than a person with an urban upbringing and only a high-school education. In 1984 the GSS was a cofounder of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). Since 1985 the ISSP has conducted an annual cross-national survey and the GSS has participated in each ISSP round.

GSS results are freely made available to interested parties over the internet, and are widely used in sociological research. The data are generally available in formats designed for statistical programs (e.g., R/SAS/SPSS/Stata).

The GSS was recently linked to the National Death Index. This freely available dataset allows researchers to explore the association between variables in the General Social Survey and human longevity. For instance, it is possible to explore the association between happiness and life expectancy.[1] The dataset and codebook are available for download by the public.

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  1. ^ Muennig, Peter (6 October 2011). "The general social survey-national death index: an innovative new dataset for the social sciences". BMC Research Notes 4 (385): 1–4. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-385. PMC 3199263. PMID 21978529. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 

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