Modes of Data Collection

Background and goals

One of the main aims of the ESS is “to chart stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe”. To make meaningful comparisons of survey estimates of attitudes across countries, it is necessary to implement high standards of scientific rigor (Jowell et al, 2007).

In pursuit of maximum data comparability, essential survey conditions are implemented as similarly as possible across ESS participating countries. For this reason, all countries up until Round 10 (2020-22) have been required to conduct face-to-face data collection.

However, the Coronavirus pandemic made face-to-face data collection difficult to implement in all countries during Round 10 of the survey. As such, special dispension was given for self-completion modes to be implemented in this round only.

In May 2022, the ESS General Assembly endorsed a plan to transition data collection from face-to-face interviews to a ‘web first self-completion’ design. Following a series of reviews and consultations with internal key stakeholders, the General Assembly approved the recommendation from the Core Scientific Team to progress with collecting data primarily through web and paper self-completion surveys.

Details on precisely how and when the change will take place will be decided in early 2023. In the meantime, ESS Round 11 fieldwork (expected to begin in February 2023) will use the existing face-to-face data collection design.

The ESS has always investigated important methodological issues concerning survey data quality in a cross-national context. A programme of methodological research has been built into the project, in order to investigate major issues in surveys such as non-response, the reliability and validity of questions and the feasibility of mixing modes of data collection.

The ESS research into mixed modes provides information that will help to inform decisions regarding:

The following issues are being assessed:

Research projects

To date, six studies have been carried out. Of these, three focused solely on assessing the effect of mode on measurement (studies 1, 2, and 3). The other three studies investigated the feasibility and practical challenges of implementing the ESS using a different mode, where all sources of error were affected by the mode design (studies 4, 5, and 6).

A summary of the results of the six experiments can be found in the book chapter listed in the sidebar.

Building on the experience of these studies, ESS ERIC coordinated Work Package 7 of the SERISS project. The Work Package investigated opportunities and challenges of high quality online data collection. This established a probability sample based web panel in three countries. WP7 aimed to:

More information on this project can be found on the CRONOS page.