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European Social Survey

The European Social Survey (ESS) is a cross-national survey that has been conducted every two years since 2002 in around 30 European countries. In each country, a minimum of 1,500 respondents answer a one-hour face-to-face interview. Switzerland has participated in all rounds since the very beginning. The respondents are drawn from a probabilistic sample representing the countries’ population aged 15 and above.

The ESS measures values, attitudes and behavioral patterns of the populations of European countries. In order to obtain internationally comparable data of high quality, the methodological specifications of the survey are very precise and rigorous. The project’s scientific quality yielded it the highly esteemed Descartes Prize in 2005.

The questionnaire is divided into two parts. A first part, the so called “core module”, is composed of socio-political, socio-economic and socio-psychological questions. The core module also gathers information regarding the respondent’s socio-demographic profile. These questions remain the same in each round. The second part includes two or more periodically repeated modules that focus on specific topics. The purpose of these rotating modules is to provide a broader insight into a series of issues that are of particular academic or policy concern. A supplementary section is dedicated to the Schwartz’ human values scale and a set of experimental tests.

The main aims of the ESS are:

  • to produce a continuous series of valuable data for comparisons over time and across countries that monitor the evolution of values, attitudes, and behavioral patterns in the European societies,
  • to establish and transmit higher standards in the comparative international social sciences (e.g., questionnaire design and pre-testing, sampling strategies, translation procedures, data collection and processing),
  • to make more visible and accessible statistical data on social change in Europe,  not only for researchers and policy makers, but also for the media and the wider public.