General Social Survey, 1972-2014 [Cumulative File] (ICPSR 36319)

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


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. The 2014 GSS has modules on quality of working life, shared capitalism, wealth, work and family balance, social identity, social isolation, and civic participation. 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 2014 ISSP topics are National Identity and Citizenship. Demographic variables include age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, marital status, religion, employment status, income, household structure, and whether respondents were born in the United States.

Series: General Social Survey Series

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Study Description


Smith, Tom W., Michael Hout, and Peter V. Marsden. General Social Survey, 1972-2014 [Cumulative File]. ICPSR36319-v2. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center/Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributors], 2016-03-14.

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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, capitalism, children, citizenship, civic engagement, 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, family life, 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 identity, social inequality, social isolation, social mobility, social networks, Social Security, sports, suicide, taxes, technology, television, terminal illnesses, terrorism, unemployment, wealth, welfare services, work, workplace violence

Smallest Geographic Unit:    census region

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1972--2014

Date of Collection:   

  • 1972--1978
  • 1980
  • 1982--1991
  • 1993
  • 1994
  • 1996
  • 1998
  • 2000
  • 2002
  • 2004
  • 2006
  • 2008
  • 2010
  • 2012
  • 2014

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) website.


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

Time Method:    Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

Weight:    Due to the number of weights and the 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:

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


Original ICPSR Release:   2016-02-05

Version History:

  • 2016-03-14 The collection documentation and online data analysis (SDA) have been updated with question text.

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