GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences: Go to homepage

The European Social Survey (ESS)

The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted across Europe since its establishment in 2001. Every two years, face-to-face interviews are conducted with newly selected, cross-sectional samples. The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations.

In 2005 the ESS was the winner of the Descartes Prize for Research & Science Communication.The ESS was awarded ERIC status by the European Commission in 2013 and comprises now 21 member countries and one observer country. The Director of the ESS ERIC is Rory Fitzgerald and the ESS ERIC headquarters are at City, University of London.

The main aims of the ESS are:

  • to chart stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe and to interpret how Europe’s social, political and moral fabric is changing;
  • to achieve and spread higher standards of rigour in cross-national research in the social sciences, including for example, questionnaire design and pre-testing, sampling, data collection, reduction of bias and the reliability of questions;
  • to introduce soundly-based indicators of national progress, based on citizens’ perceptions and judgements of key aspects of their societies;
  • to undertake and facilitate the training of European social researchers in comparative quantitative measurement and analysis;
  • to improve the visibility and outreach of data on social change among academics, policy makers and the wider public.


The ESS data is available free of charge for non-commercial use and can be downloaded from the ESS  website after a short registration.

GESIS as member of the Core Scientific Team within ESS fulfils major tasks in questionnaire translation and in fieldwork planning and monitoring. In order to achieve 'optimal comparability' in the operationalisation of the ESS, the Core Scientific Team produces a detailed project specification, which is revised in light of each successive round. National teams ensure that fieldwork is conducted - and comprehensively documented – according to the same standards cross-nationally. This 'principle of equality or equivalence' applies to sample selection, translation of the questionnaire, and to all methods and processes associated with data collection and processing.

The national teams of the countries participating to ESS are supported and evaluated in order to ensure the highest possible precision and comparability of the collected data.

The ESS team at GESIS organizes the meetings of the National Coordinators’ Forum twice a year. Dr. Angelika Scheuer serves as Deputy Director Scientific and supports the Scientific Advisory Board of the ESS ERIC.