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General Social Survey

GSS 1972-2018 Cumulative Data File

The 1972-2018 GSS cumulative data file for the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Surveys (GSS) is available from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research for immediate download .

These data have been processed by the Roper Center and differ in several ways from the original version supplied by NORC. During the archival process, systematic changes have been made to the data files for completeness.

These changes include:

  • Additions and corrections to response labeling
  • Inclusion of “Don’t know” responses as valid
  • Since a number of variables differ and new variables have been added to the cumulative data file, the codebook frequencies should not be trusted as definitive response distributions.

In 2008 the GSS was in transition from a replicating cross-sectional design to a design that uses rotating panels. There were two components: a new 2008 cross-section with 2,023 cases and the first re-interviews with 1,536 respondents from the 2006 GSS. In 2010 the new design was fully implemented. There is a new cross-section of about 2,044 cases, the first re-interviews of the 2008 GSS respondents, and the second and final re-interviews of the 2006 GSS respondents. This three-wave, rolling panel design was also used in 2012. Each GSS will thus 1) start a new 4-year/3-wave panel, 2) be in the middle of a 4-year/3-wave panel, and 3) finish a still earlier 4-year/3-wave panel.

GSS Description

The National Data Program for the Social Sciences (NDPSS) is both a data diffusion project and a program of social indicator research. Its data collection instrument, the General Social Survey (GSS), was fielded for the 32nd time in 2018. Previously an annual survey, the GSS became biennial in 1994. The questionnaire contains a standard core of demographic and attitudinal variables, plus certain topics of special interest selected for rotation (called “topical modules”). Items that appeared on national surveys between 1973 and 1975 are replicated. The exact wording of these questions is retained to facilitate time trend studies as well as replications of earlier findings.

The newly released data file contains individual response coding for 64,814 respondents and 6,108 variables. The 2018 GSS follows the biennial, double sample design that was first adopted in 1994.

Currently, the Principal Investigators are Tom W. Smith, Senior Fellow and Director of NORC's Center for the Study of Politics and Society and Director of the General Social Survey (GSS); Michael Davern, Executive Vice President of Research and Director of Health Care research at NORC; Jeremy Freese, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, and Stephen Morgan, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Education at Johns Hopkins University.

Former Principal Investigators include James A. Davis, formerly Director of NORC and now a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago; Tom W. Smith, Senior Fellow and Director of NORC's Center for the Study of Politics and Society and Director of the General Social Survey (GSS), and Peter V. Marsden, Research Associate, NORC and Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

The new survey has been added to the cumulative file, which now contains data spanning over 40 years.

Contents of the GSS

PDF File
GSS Codebook PDF file
2018 Individual SPSS file
2018 Individual ASCII file
2018 Individual STATA file
2018 Cumulative SPSS file
2018 Cumulative ASCII file
2018 Cumulative STATA file
Release Notes PDF file

GSS 1972-2018 Technical Specifications

GSS Methodology

The General Social Surveys have been conducted during the first six months of each year. There are a total of 64,814 completed interviews:

Year n
1972 1613
1973 1504
1974 1484
1975 1490
1976 1499
1977 1530
1978 1532
1980 1468
1982 1506
1982* 254
1983 1599
1984 1473
1985 1534
1986 1470
1987 1466
1987* 353
1988 1481
1989 1537
1990 1372
1991 1517
1993 1606
1994 2992
1996 2904
1998 2832
2000 2807
2002 2765
2004 2812
2006 4510
2008 2023
2010 2044
2012 1974
2014 2538
2016 2867
2018 2348

*Black oversample

The median length of the interview has been about one and a half hours.

GSS Sample Design

  • Each survey from 1972 to 2018 was an independently drawn sample of English-speaking persons 18 years of age or over, living in non-institutional arrangements within the United States.
  • Starting in 2006 Spanish-speakers were added to the target population.
  • Block quota sampling was used in 1972, 1973, and 1974 surveys and for half of the 1975 and 1976 surveys.
  • Full probability sampling was employed in half of the 1975 and 1976 surveys and the 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982-1991, 1993-1998, 2000 through 2018 surveys.
  • Also, the 2004 through 2018 surveys had sub-sampled non-respondents (see Appendix A for a detailed description of the sample design).

GSS Data Processing

The data from the interviews were processed according to standard NORC procedures.

This cumulative data set merges all 32 surveys into a single file with each year or survey acting as a sub file. This greatly simplifies the use of the General Social Surveys for both trend analysis and pooling. In addition, this cumulative data set contains newly created variables (e.g. a poverty line code). Finally, the cumulative file contains certain items never before available.

GSS 1972-2018 Special Topical Modules

  • Gender roles
  • Generosity
  • Information society
  • Knowledge about and attitudes towards science
  • Religious identity
  • Religious trends, repeating a number of items from earlier GSS
  • Sexual behavior (continuing the series started in 1988)
  • Social inequality
  • Workplace violence

GSS 2018 Special Topical Modules

  • Everyday discrimination
  • Healthy people
  • Abortion
  • Nature
  • Pets

GSS 1972-2018 Cumulative Codebook

by Tom W. Smith, Michael Davern, Jeremy Freese, Stephen Morgan

GSS Codebook Description

Comprehensive information on all aspects of the General Social Surveys 1972-2018 project. Codebook contains exact question text, response codes and frequency counts for 6,108 variables used by the National Opinion Research Center for over 40 years. While the codebook is intended to be used in conjunction with the General Social Survey 1972-2018 cumulative data file, the codebook alone holds a wealth of opinion data on a wide variety of social issues.

Table of Contents

New Developments
Abbreviations and Data Identification Numbers
Index to Data Set
Codes for the 1972-2018 Surveys — Includes variable names, exact question text, response categories and codes, and unweighted marginal frequencies for questions in selected years.
General Social Survey Topical Modules
International Social Survey Program (ISSP) Modules
Other GSS Variables (including socio-demographic variables)

GSS Download

The GSS 2018 dataset and codebook are available for immediate download – Download GSS Dataset and Codebook


Please contact the Roper Center at 607.255.8129 or email Data Services.