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

Version Date: Nov 14, 2017 View help for published

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


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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.

Smith, Tom W., Hout, Michael, and Marsden, Peter V. General Social Survey, 1972-2016 [Cumulative File]. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], National Opinion Research Center [distributor], 2017-11-14.

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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, 1980, 1982 -- 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016
  1. 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.



2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Smith, Tom W., Michael Hout, and Peter V. Marsden. General Social Survey, 1972-2016 [Cumulative File]. ICPSR36797-v1. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center/Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributors], 2017-11-14.

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.