General Social Survey Series

The General Social Surveys (GSS) have been conducted by the National Opinion Research Center annually since 1972, except for the years 1979, 1981, and 1992 (a supplement was added in 1992), and biennially beginning in 1994. For each round of surveys, the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research prepares a cumulative dataset that merges previous years of the GSS into a single file, with each year or survey constituting a subfile. The content of each survey changes slightly as some items are added to or deleted from the interview schedule. Main areas covered in the GSS include socioeconomic status, social mobility, social control, the family, race relations, sex relations, civil liberties, and morality. Topical modules designed to investigate new issues or to expand the coverage of an existing subject have been part of the GSS since 1977, when the first module on race, abortion, and feminism appeared. The topical modules for 1998 focused on the themes of medical care, medical ethics, religion, religion and health, culture, job experiences, and interracial friendships. Other topics covered have included gender, emotions, market exchange, giving and volunteering, and mental health (1996), family mobility and multiculturalism (1994), cultural issues (1993), work organizations (1991), intergroup relations (1990), occupational prestige (1989), religious socialization, behaviors, and beliefs (1988), sociopolitical participation (1987), the feminization of poverty (1986), social networks (1985), and the role of the military (1982 and 1984). The GSS also added a crossnational component in 1985, through participation in a multinational collaborative group called the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). Topics addressed have included the role of government (1985, 1990, 1996, and 1998), social support (1986), social inequality (1987), family and gender issues (1988 and 1994), work orientation (1989 and 1998), the impact of religious background, behavior, and beliefs on social and political preferences (1991 and 1998), environmental issues (1993), and national identity (1996 and 1998). In 1994, two major innovations were introduced to the GSS. First, the traditional core set of questions was substantially reduced to allow for the creation of mini-modules (small- to medium-sized supplements). The mini-modules permit greater flexibility to incorporate innovations and to include important items proposed by the social science community. Second, a new biennial, split-sample design was instituted, consisting of two parallel subsamples of approximately 1,500 cases each. The two subsamples contain identical cores and different topical ISSP modules.

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