The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted every two years across Europe since 2002. Currently the eighth round, to be fielded in the fall of 2016, is in preparation.
The ESS measures attitudes, beliefs and behavioral patterns of the general population in more than thirty countries. The main aims of the ESS are:
• to chart stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe and to interpret how Europe’s social, political and moral fabric is changing
• to achieve and spread higher standards of rigor in cross-national research in the social sciences, including for example, questionnaire design and pre-testing, sampling, data collection, reduction of bias and the reliability of questions
• to introduce soundly-based indicators of national progress, based on citizens’ perceptions and judgements of key aspects of their societies
• to undertake and facilitate the training of European social researchers in comparative quantitative measurement and analysis
• to improve the visibility and outreach of data on social change among academics, policy makers and the wider public
Following an application to the European Commission which was submitted by the UK on behalf of 14 other countries, the ESS was awarded European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) status on 30th November 2013. In 2016 ESS ERIC will be included in the ESFRI Roadmap as a Landmark Research Infrastructure. The ESS data collection procedure is centrally organized and coordinated by a team of reputed researchers. Besides these organizational aspects, the infrastructural nature of ESS lies in the rich and high-quality data resource it constitutes for comparative research on social and political attitudes. The ESS data cover the core dimensions of public opinion investigated in the social and political sciences. ESS also collects a rich array of social background variables, containing information about a respondent's social and cultural background, ethnicity, religion, labor market participation, household income, social mobility and various demographics. In addition to this, ESS also constitutes an important methodological infrastructure, due to its innovative procedures for question formulation, translation, measurement, sampling and data access. Finally, besides building a reliable time series of information on comparative social and political attitudes and their social-structural backgrounds through the strict replication of the identical modules of questions in each round, ESS offers significant opportunities for theoretical innovation and renewal. A particularly important instrument here is the inclusion of two rotating topical modules in each round, providing two international teams with the opportunity to include up to 40-50 new questions in each of the participating countries.
The ESS data is available free of charge for non-commercial use and can be downloaded from the ESS website after a short registration.
In 2015 ESS ERIC has been awarded two Horizon 2020 grants, one for the coordination of SERISS (Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences), and one for ESS SUSTAIN, a project seeking to consolidate efforts to achieve sustainability.
In 2005 the ESS was the winner of the Descartes Prize for Research & Science Communication.