Method Data1

Published on February 4th, 2013


Social Science Data – Where Your Research Begins

By Tor G. Jakobsen

In order to study a social phenomenon, a social scientist needs good data. Luckily there is plenty available. We in Popular Social Science have reviewed two of the best available sources of cross-national survey data available.


World Values Survey

World Values Survey (WVS) is a worldwide investigation of socio-cultural and political change, the latest survey covering more than 60 countries. The survey is funded locally through scientific-funding bodies in each participating country. Its history spans back to 1981, when its predecessor, the European Values Survey, was extended so as to include countries outside Europe. The chairman of the WVS Executive Committee is Ronald Inglehart from the University of Michigan.

WVS gathers data from personal interviews of representative samples of the populations in the different countries. It focuses on individuals’ values and attitudes on important areas of life, including family, religion, moral, work, and politics. The undertaking of a given WVS survey is called a wave. A total of five waves or rounds of the WVS have been carried out. After the first survey there was an interval of 10 years, and further waves came at intervals of approximately five years.


European Social Survey

This survey has several similarities to the WVS. However, it only encompasses European countries. The ESS is funded through the European Commission, the European Science Foundation, and scientific national funding bodies in each country. The project is led by Roger Jowell at the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, London.

It is a biennial multi-country survey designed to chart and explain the interaction between Europe’s changing institutions and the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior patterns of its countries’ populations. The data collection is based on personal interviews in more than 30 nations. Like the WVS, the ESS is a repeat cross-sectional study. A total of five surveys have been performed, the first fieldwork commenced in 2002.


*Cover photo by Ivan McClellan


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