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General Social Survey (GSS)

a PSC Data Resource

Resource Source:NORC


The General Social Survey (GSS) conducts basic scientific research on the structure and development of American society with a data-collection program designed to both monitor social change within the United States and to compare the United States to other nations.


The National Data Program for the Social Sciences is designed as a data diffusion project and a program of social indicator research. The data come from the General Social Surveys, interviews administered to NORC national samples using a standard questionnaire. Toward the major goal of functioning as a social indicator program, items which have appeared on previous national surveys starting in 1937 have been replicated here. The search for trend items led us to published reports from Gallup, Harris, the Detroit Area Study, SRC (Michigan) studies, NORC files, and Federal Commissions such as those on Violence and Pornography. By retaining the exact wording, we hope to facilitate time trend studies as well as replications of earlier findings. For the base line items in the initial 1972 survey, some 105 sociologists and social scientists reviewed drafts of the questionnaire, suggested revisions and additions, and expressed their question preference by vote. Their serious assistance was extremely helpful in putting together a final version of the questionnaire which would represent the varied interests of social scientists. Topic and question selection continues to be monitored by leading social scientists who serve as a Board of Overseers: Deborah Carr, Camille Charles, Mark Chaves, Claude Fischer, Jeremy Freese, Claudine Gay, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Maria Krysan, Robert Sampson, Robert Schoeni, and Bruce Western. The items appearing on the surveys are one of three types: Permanent questions that occur on each survey, rotating questions that appear on two out of every three surveys (1973, 1974, and 1976, or 1973, 1975, and 1976), and a few occasional questions such as split ballot experiments that occur in a single survey. Starting in 1988, items were no longer rotated across years but appeared on two-thirds of the cases every year. This design is discussed in Appendix Q. A detailed layout of the appearance of questions can be found right before the index to this codebook.


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