General Social Survey, 1972-2016 [Cumulative File] (ICPSR 36797)

Published: Nov 14, 2017

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


Version V1

Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has been monitoring societal change and studying the growing complexity of American society. The GSS aims to gather data on contemporary American society in order to monitor and explain trends and constants in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes; to examine the structure and functioning of society in general as well as the role played by relevant subgroups; to compare the United States to other societies in order to place American society in comparative perspective and develop cross-national models of human society; and to make high-quality data easily accessible to scholars, students, policy makers, and others, with minimal cost and waiting. GSS questions include such items as national spending priorities, marijuana use, crime and punishment, race relations, quality of life, and confidence in institutions. Since 1988, the GSS has also collected data on sexual behavior including number of sex partners, frequency of intercourse, extramarital relationships, and sex with prostitutes. In 1985 the GSS co-founded the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). The ISSP has conducted an annual cross-national survey each year since then and has involved 58 countries and interviewed over one million respondents. The ISSP asks an identical battery of questions in all countries; the U.S. version of these questions is incorporated into the GSS. The 2016 GSS added in new variables covering information regarding social media use, suicide, hope and optimism, arts and culture, racial/ethnic identity, flexibility of work, spouses work and occupation, home cohabitation, and health.

National Science Foundation

abortion agriculture alcohol birth control business capitalism children citizenship civic engagement civil rights community participation compensation computer use corporations courts crime democracy dissent divorce drug use economic issues employment environment ethnicity euthanasia expenditures family foreign affairs gender government health housing human rights immigration income industry labor unions marriage media coverage mental health military occupations parents police politics poverty prejudice privacy race relations racial attitudes religion science sexual behavior sexual preference smoking social classes social identity social inequality social isolation social mobility social networks Social Security sports suicide taxes technology television terrorism unemployment wealth welfare services work

census region

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, National Opinion Research Center

1972 -- 2016

1972 -- 1978


1982 -- 1991














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.

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

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

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


survey data

computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI)

face-to-face interview

telephone interview



2017-11-14 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:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

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


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

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This study is provided by ICPSR. ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for a diverse and expanding social science research community.