New data from the European Social Survey (ESS)


Since 2002, ESS has collected comparable data from over 30 European countries. Now, data from the 2018 survey is freely available for download. Specific themes in this round are "Justice and Fairness in Europe" and "Timing of Life".

The European Social Survey (ESS) is a large, European academic survey that every two years records the attitudes and values of Europeans. Results from the ninth round are now available, with 19 of the 31 countries included in the first data release. Results from the remaining participant countries will be available in May 2020. 

Comparable data on attitudes, identity and political interest

When the ESS came into being, it was to ensure open access to high-quality comparative data on attitudes, values and societal structures for non-commercial use.

The survey consists of several core modules (questions that are asked in each round) and round-specific modules (questions on specific topics that are asked at regular intervals).

- This is unique data. In the research environment, ESS is often referred to as the gold standard for comparative interview surveys on attitudes to society and politics, not only in Europe, but also the rest of the world, says Professor Rory Fitzgerald (Director ESS ERIC).

You can access and analyze all the data here.

Method and use

ESS has 146,000 registered users. The users are academics and students, particularly from the social sciences, but the data is also used by the media, government, business and others. So far, there are over 3,900 registered scientific publications based on ESS data. 

ESS user statistics - illustrationThe ESS survey is based on methodological standards such as probability sampling, ambitious response rate targets (70%), rigorous procedures for translation of the questionnaire and training of interviewers, as well as comprehensive and harmonized data specifications.

The data collection takes place through personal interviews and lasts for about an hour on average. The field work in the various countries is overseen by national teams of academics, who meet stringent requirements for competence and ability.

- ESS is therefore a unique international project in terms of its anchoring in the participating countries, and the project has contributed to the goal of promoting and consolidating ever better methodology for this type of research, says Fitzgerald.

Wide societal impact

In total, data from 392,610 respondents in 36 countries over 16 years have been collected, and over 50 million euro has been invested in the project (fieldwork?).

The extensive use means that ESS data has a wide societal impact. For example, data can be used to show relationships between the number of asylum seekers and attitudes to immigration in different countries, and how such relationships have evolved over time.

At the national level, ESS data in health inequalities, attitudes towards climate or community institutions can contribute to informed decisions, political instruments and legislation.

In Hungary, a replication survey with ESS questions among the country's LGBTQI population, conducted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in 2007, led to this group being formally recognized as a disadvantaged group in 2017.

Organization and finance

Since 2013, ESS has been organized as a European research infrastructure, the ESS European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ESS ERIC). It represents national authorities and is funded by member and observer countries.

ESS ERIC works systematically to include several countries. However, some countries struggle to finance the field work in their own country, and to contribute to the common costs of operating the infrastructure.

The infrastructure also collaborates with leading surveys in countries such as Australia, Japan, South Africa and the United States, and with global organizations in the field.

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