The ISSP evolved out of pre-existing general social surveys. Its origin was a bilateral collaboration between the respective national studies of National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago and Zentrum fuer Umfragen, Methoden, und Analysen (ZUMA, now part of GESIS-Leibniz Institute of the Social Sciences), in Mannheim, Germany. Both institutes started to collaborate in 1982, devoting a small segment of their national surveys ALLBUS and GSS to a common set of questions.

In 1983, SCPR London (now National Centre for Social Research, NATCEN) started a social indicators series called the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) similar to the ALLBUS and GSS and initiated meetings to further international collaboration. As a result, representatives from NORC, ZUMA, SCPR and the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, organized ISSP in 1984.

They agreed to:

  • jointly develop topical modules dealing with important areas of social science,
  • field the modules as a (fifteen-minutes) supplement to the regular national surveys (or a special survey if necessary),
  • include an extensive common core of background variables,
  • make the data available to the social science community as soon as possible.

Funds and Archives

Each research organisation funds all of its own costs. There are no central funds to run national ISSP surveys or fund organisational or methodological tasks.

The merging of the data into a cross-national data set is performed by the Data Archive for the Social Sciences, GESIS (in collaboration with ASEP/JDS.)

Current and former Members

Since 1984, ISSP has included 57 nations: the founding four – the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Australia – plus Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.

East Germany was added to the German sample upon reunification. 

In addition, countries that fielded ISSP surveys without joining include Algeria, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Vietnam. These extra datasets on ISSP 2008 Religion III and ISSP 2018 Religion IV are archived at the GESIS Data Archive and can be downloaded by interested researchers.