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General Information

History of the ISSP

The International Social Survey Program (ISSP) is a continuing, annual program of cross-national collaboration. It brings together pre-existing, social science projects and coordinates research goals, thereby adding a cross-national perspective to the individual, national studies.

ISSP evolved from a bilateral collaboration between the Allgemeine Bevölkerungsumfrage der Sozialwissenschaften (ALLBUS) of the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden, und Analysen (ZUMA) in Mannheim, Germany[1] and the General Social Survey (GSS) of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago. Both the ALLBUS and the GSS are replicating, time series studies. The ALLBUS has been conducted biennially since 1980 and the GSS regularly since 1972. In 1982 ZUMA and the NORC devoted a small segment of the ALLBUS and GSS to a common set of questions on job values, important areas of life, abortion, and feminism. (A merged data set is available from the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan.) Again in 1984 collaboration was carried out, this time on class differences, equality, and the welfare state.

Meanwhile, in late 1983 Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR), London,[2] which was starting a social indicators series called the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) similar to the ALLBUS and GSS, secured funds from the Nuffield Foundation to hold meetings to further international collaboration. Representatives from ZUMA, NORC, SCPR, and the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University organized ISSP in 1984 and agreed to 1) jointly develop topical modules dealing with important areas of social science, 2) field the modules as a fifteen-minute supplement to the regular national surveys (or a special survey if necessary), 3) include an extensive common core of background variables, and 4) make the data available to the social science community as soon as possible.

Each research organization funds all of its own costs. There are no central funds. The merging of the data into a cross-national data set is performed by the Zentralarchiv für Empirische Sozialforschung, University of Cologne[3]in collaboration with the Analisis Sociologicos, Economicos y Politicos in Spain.

Since 1984, ISSP has included 53 nations, the founding four--Germany, the United States, Great Britain, and Australia-- plus Austria, Ireland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel, Norway, the Philippines, New Zealand, Russia, Japan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Cyprus, France, Portugal, Slovakia, Latvia, Chile, Denmark, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, Venezuela, Belgium, Finland, Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea, Uruguay, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, Argentina, China, Palestine, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Iceland, India, Georgia, and Suriname. Also, East Germany was added to the German sample upon reunification. In addition, countries that have fielded all or parts of ISSP studies without joining include Albania, Bosnia, East Timor, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.

The annual topics for ISSP are developed over several years by a sub-committee and pre-tested in various countries. The annual plenary meeting of ISSP then adopts the final questionnaire. The ISSP researchers especially concentrate on developing the questions that are 1) meaningful and relevant to all countries and 2) can be expressed in an equivalent manner in all relevant languages. The questionnaire is originally drafted in English and then translated to other languages using standard back translation procedures.

ISSP marks several new departures in the area of cross-national research. First, the collaboration between organizations is not special or intermittent, but routine and continual. Second, while necessarily more circumscribed than collaboration dedicated solely to cross-national research on a single topic, ISSP makes cross-national research a basic part of the national research agenda of each participating country. Third, by combining a cross-time with a cross-national perspective, two powerful research designs are being used to study societal processes.

Data from the modules from 1985 to 2013 are presently available from the GESIS archive and various national archives such as Essex in Britain, ASEP/JDS in Spain, and ICPSR in the United States.

Publications based on the ISSP are listed in a bibliography available from the Publications page. It currently lists more than 5,700 publications. 2015 © ISSP

[1] ZUMA is now part of GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences.
[2] SCPR has been renamed the National Centre for Social Research.
[3] The Zentralarchiv is now part of GESIS as the Data Archive for the Social Sciences.