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General Social Survey

General Social Survey 

The General Social Survey (GSS) has research data on how Americans think and feel about such issues as national spending priorities, crime and punishment, intergroup relations, and confidence in institutions. It is designed to both monitor societal change within the United States and to compare the United States to other nations.  

To explore and analyze GSS data, create data visualizations, and generate custom extracts, you should create an account for the GSS Data Explorer. This is free and you only need to supply a username, email address, and password. You do not have to disclose your name or institutional affiliation if you chose not to. (Note: If your browser asks to save your login, it will likely save your email address, not the username you chose. Make sure when you login it is with your username, not email address.)

Sign in and click “Search Variables” in the sidebar on the right hand side.

You can search for variables in two ways:

  1. Using the Keyword search box, type in your keyword/s 
  2. Using the “Filter by Module / Subject” box. Click on the plus sign in this box to see a list of all variables. You can use the search box within this pop-up to look for variables, or browse the A-Z list. Click the check-box next to the variable(s) you want to investigate, the click the orange Search button. 

Your results will show all the variables associated the subject you chose.  Using the tabs above the search results list, you can switch from variable view to survey question view to see the full survey questions.

The “Years Available” column will show for what years data is available for each question. 

Clicking on a variable name will give you the full information about a question and a table showing the raw data for responses to this question. 

When you've identified a variable that you want to work with, click "Add to Cart" to save that variable. You can add multiple variables to your cart before proceeding to the next step, in which you will calculate percentages from the raw data.

Note: A step-by-step version of these instructions with screenshots is available by viewing the Using the GSS Tutorial.

After creating an account, when you log in to the GSS Data Explorer you will be taken to the MyGSS / Project page. Here, you can access your list of saved variables and your analyses.

The GSS Documentation site includes information about GSS methodologies and codebooks.

Calculating Percentages from Raw GSS Data

Log into GSS Data Explorer

1. Near the top right of the page, locate the orange drop down menu that says “Actions” and choose the “Analyze Data”

2. On the Analysis screen, choose “Cross Tabulation” and click next.

3. On the Build Analysis screen, you will choose and add your variables. GSS Year should always be in the Column Variable box (drag the box from the right hand sidebar to the box) and the subject variable should be in the Row Variable box.

4. Click the “exclude missing values” button near the bottom of page.

5. Click “Create Analysis” at the bottom of the page.

6. On the page displaying your cross tabulation, look for the gray box near the center of the page that says “Display Options.” Click on this and change the selection in the Show drop-down menu to Column percent, and in the Number of Decimal Places menu, choose 1, then click apply.

7. You can click “Export” in the center of the screen to export the results as an Excel file.

8. To run a new data analysis, click “Analyses” in the breadcrumb trail near the top of the page. (If that does not work, use your browser’s back button to navigate back to the previous page.)


Research Methods

Abby Juda

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Abby Juda