General Social Survey (GSS)

The General Social Survey (GSS)  has tracked the ‘pulse of America’ since 1972.  With a cumulative sample size of over 57,000, this annual survey is widely regarded as ‘the single best source of data on societal trends’.  It is widely used by academics, government agencies, and the private sector, and is the basis for ‘over 20,000 scholarly publications’.

The data contains participant responses to over 5000 demographic, behavioral and attitudinal questions. The questions cover a broad range of issues such as ideology, the role of government, life satisfaction, tolerance and child-rearing practice. This allows an understanding of how opinions and outlook varies with personal characteristics such as ideology, income, race and gender.  Since many questions have remained constant, we can also study how these opinions have evolved over time, and whether ‘polarization’ based on ideology, socioeconomics, and race has changed over time.

The recent book “Social Trends in American Life: Findings from the General Social Survey since 1972Peter V. Marsden (Editor) presents findings on several key topics, offering a “a window into diverse facets of American life, from intergroup relations to political views and orientations, social affiliations, and perceived well-being.” The visualizations here allow you to replicate many of the results in the book and other academic publications. Drill a little deeper to address many other questions that might arise in your investigation of what America believes.

We have used the GSS data to create interactive visualizations  and give you access to a wealth of insights. With a few clicks, you can see how public opinion has evolved over time, and how it varies with personal characteristics such as ideology, race, and income.  You can also map public opinion to quickly identify differences across regions and how these patterns have changed over time.