General Social Survey, 1972-2012 [Cumulative File] (ICPSR 34802)

Principal Investigator(s): Smith, Tom W., National Opinion Research Center; Hout, Michael, National Opinion Research Center; Marsden, Peter V., National Opinion Research Center


The General Social Surveys (GSS) were designed as part of a data diffusion project in 1972. The GSS replicated questionnaire items and wording in order to facilitate time-trend studies. The latest survey, GSS 2012, includes a cumulative file that merges all 29 General Social Surveys into a single file containing data from 1972 to 2012. The items appearing in the surveys are one of three types: Permanent questions that occur on each survey, rotating questions that appear on two out of every three surveys (1973, 1974, and 1976, or 1973, 1975, and 1976), and a few occasional questions such as split ballot experiments that occur in a single survey. The 2012 surveys included seven topic modules: Jewish identity, generosity, workplace violence, science, skin tone, and modules for experimental and miscellaneous questions. The International Social Survey Program (ISSP) module included in the 2012 survey was gender. The data also contain several variables describing the demographic characteristics of the respondents.

Series: General Social Survey Series

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Study Description


Smith, Tom W., Michael Hout, and Peter V. Marsden. General Social Survey, 1972-2012 [Cumulative File]. ICPSR34802-v1. Storrs, CT: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut/Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributors], 2013-09-11.

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This study was funded by:

  • National Science Foundation

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    abortion, Affirmative Action, agriculture, AIDS, alcohol, altruism, birth control, business, capital punishment, children, citizenship, civil rights, communism, community participation, compensation, computer use, corporations, courts, crime, democracy, dissent, divorce, drug use, economic issues, employment, environment, environmental attitudes, environmental protection, ethnicity, euthanasia, expenditures, families, foreign affairs, freedom, gender, gender issues, gender roles, government, health, housing, human rights, hunting, immigration, income, industry, Jews, labor unions, marijuana, marriage, media coverage, mental health, military draft, military service, national identity, occupations, parents, patients, physicians, police, politics, poverty, prejudice, privacy, race relations, racial attitudes, religion, school prayer, science, sexual behavior, sexual preference, smoking, social classes, social inequality, social mobility, social networks, Social Security, sports, suicide, taxes, technology, television, terminal illnesses, terrorism, tobacco use, unemployment, welfare services, work, workplace violence

Smallest Geographic Unit:    census region

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1972--2012

Date of Collection:   

  • 1972--1978
  • 1980
  • 1982--1991
  • 1993
  • 1994
  • 1996
  • 1998
  • 2000
  • 2002
  • 2004
  • 2006
  • 2008
  • 2010
  • 2012

Unit of Observation:    individual

Universe:    All noninstitutionalized, English and Spanish speaking persons 18 years of age or older, living in the United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Please note that NORC may have updated the General Social Survey data files. Additional information regarding the General Social Surveys can be found at the General Social Survey (GSS) Web site.


Sample:    For sampling information, please see Appendix A of the ICPSR Codebook.

Weight:    Due to the number of weights and various uses for them, users should refer to Appendix A of the ICPSR Codebook.

Mode of Data Collection:    computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI), face-to-face interview, telephone interview

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2013-09-11

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F. Next, did any of the following criminal or legal events occur to you since (CURRENT MONTH), 2003... 4. Accused of something for which a person might be sent to jail
92a. How important is the crime issue to you?
247. B. Not counting minor traffic offenses, have you ever been convicted of a crime?
1445. There are different opinions about immigrants from other countries living in America. (By "immigrants" we mean people who come to settle in America.) How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements? a. Immigrants increase crime rates
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308. And one last question. We all know that American citizens have certain rights. For example, they have the right to free public education and to police protection, the right to attend religious services of their choice, and the right to elect public officials. Id like to ask now about certain obligations that some people feel American citizens owe their country. I just want your own opinion on these - whether you feel it is a very important obligation, a somewhat important obligation, or not an obligation that a citizen owes to the country. d. Reporting a crime that he or she may have witnessed?
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988. Some people argue that more restrictions on handguns would decrease violent crime by making it harder for criminals to get handguns. Other people argue that more restrictions on handguns would increase violent crime by making it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves with handguns. Which of the following statements is closer to your own opinion?
989. Suppose research proves that more legal restrictions on handguns would increase violent crime. Which of these two reactions would be closer to your position:

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