European Social Survey

ESS logoThe European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically-driven social survey designed to chart and explain the interaction between Europe's changing institutions and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of its diverse populations. The ESS was established in 2001, and was led by its founder and coordinator Roger Jowell until his death in December 2011.The survey covers over 30 nations and employs the most rigorous methodologies.

It has been funded through the European Commission's 5th, 6th and 7th Framework Programmes, the European Science Foundation and national funding bodies in each country. Funding for central coordination for the fifth round of the survey is provided by research councils and/or research ministries in the UK (the ESRC), Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Austria.

The ESS has also been nominated for a major upgrade to its infrastructure by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap. The purpose of this is to unify, regularise and secure the funding for the Research Infrastructure as a whole over an extended period.

About the European Social Survey

The central aim of the ESS is to develop and conduct a systematic study of changing values, attitudes, attributes and behaviour patterns within contemporary Europe. The ESS aims to measure and explain how people's social values, cultural norms and behaviour patterns are distributed, the way in which they differ within and between nations, and the direction and speed at which they are changing.

The ESS is a biennial study and data for the first three rounds have now been collected and made publicly available. The data from the fourth round of the survey have also been collected and was released in 2009. As survey builds upon survey, the ESS is expected to play a pivotal role in informing European governance and academic debate, providing reliable and durable measures that are central to our understanding of modern Europe and of change within it.

  • The ESS is directed by a multi-nation Central Coordinating Team led by Rory Fitzgerald at the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University London. The six other partners are NSD (Norway), GESIS (Germany), SCP (Netherlands), ESADE at the University of Pompeu Fabra (Spain), University of Leuven (Belgium) and University of Ljubljana (Slovenia).
  • The survey is conducted using face to face interviewing and consists of a 'core' module lasting about half an hour (which remains relatively constant from round to round) and 'rotating' modules, repeated less frequently, each of which is devoted to a substantive topic or theme and designed by a different panel of specialists chosen in a Europe-wide competition. While the core module monitors change and continuity in a wide range of socio-political and socio-demographic variables, the rotating modules provide an in-depth focus on a narrower range of academic or policy concerns.
  • The survey uses random (probability) samples based on full coverage of the eligible residential populations aged 15 or over. An 'effective' sample size of 1,500 is aimed for in each country (or 800 for countries with sample sizes of less than 2 million). The target response rate is 70 per cent.
  • To date, 34 European countries have participated in at least one round of the ESS. In the most recent round (Round 4) 31 countries participated. The survey covers all EC countries except Malta and in addition includes Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey, Israel and the Ukraine. Sometimes countries have had to miss one or more rounds due to funding difficulties but no country has ever left the survey.

More information on the survey is available on the ESS website.

How to access the data

ESS data is freely available to anyone from the ESS Data Archive and is now available for the first three rounds of the survey. Data for Round 4 was released in 2009. Users only have to register their details and they may then either carry out online analyses or download the data.

There are currently over 24,800 registered data users of the data archive, more than half of whom have downloaded data for statistical analysis. Users comprise scholars from a very wide range of countries and academic disciplines, as well as civil servants, policy analysts, think tanks, journalists, politicians and the public at large.

In addition to providing access to ESS data, the ESS Data Archive also provides documentation to accompany each round of the survey, an online bibliography of publications using ESS data and an interactive learning tool (EduNet) which combines theory, data and methodology within one analysis teaching resource.

Further information

  • European Social Survey
    Central Co-ordinating Team, Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB
    Email: (General Enquires) (Data access queries)
    Telephone: +44 (0)20 7040 4901
    Fax: +44 (0)20 7040 4900
  • ESRC resources team
    Telephone: 01793 413180