CHICAGO, May 19, 2021 — Panel data from the 2020 General Social Survey (GSS), one of most valuable social science resources in the country, are now available to the public. The GSS team at NORC was able to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic—e.g., to protect the health and safety of both the interviewers and survey participants—by adapting their data collection methods away from in-person interviews to web-based and telephone surveys. As a result, the team was able to collect vital public opinion data during a critical time in America’s history.
Persevering by adapting innovative methodological techniques, in 2020, NORC conducted the GSS as two studies— a panel study (re-interviewing GSS participants from 2016 and 2018) and a cross-sectional study (with a newly selected representative sample from 2020). NORC has prepared documentation—available at our website (gss.norc.org)—to understand the scope and possibilities, as well as the limitations, of the recent GSS data. The second survey (cross-sectional study) will be available later this year.
“Throughout its history, the GSS has been an objective, scientific, and nonpartisan resource for decision-makers, journalists, researchers, business leaders, and many others,” said René Bautista, director of the GSS and principal research scientist in the Statistics and Methodology Department at NORC at the University of Chicago. “The 2020 GSS represents a number of historic firsts and provides researchers with an opportunity to understand the American public and the changes we’re going through more holistically than in years past.”
The GSS is a biennial, nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago since 1972 to monitor societal change and study the growing complexity of American society. It is the longest-running national longitudinal survey tracking the views of the American people and where they stand on a vast array of critical issues. GSS questions cover a broad spectrum of topics, such as race relations, crime, religious identity, generosity, confidence in institutions, workplace conflict, and many more. The GSS is funded in large part by the National Science Foundation.
“For the health and safety of our interviewers and survey participants, the GSS in 2020 was not fielded as a traditional face-to-face survey. We adapted innovative methods to make sure that they worked with web and telephone surveys, because having no data would have been a disservice to the social science community and the American public at such an important time in our history,” said Bautista. “The changes we instituted for this year’s survey not only allowed us to safely conduct the GSS at a time of tremendous change throughout the U.S., but also allowed us to gather data in a way that represents an opportunity to study change at the person level.”
The 2020 GSS entered into a collaboration with the American National Election Studies to conduct a follow up study of GSS cases after election day. The current panel data release does not include information to link ANES with GSS participants. Later this year the ANES and GSS will provide the crosswalk information so researchers will be able to link the datasets and study changes in society before and after the 2020 election—e.g., by connecting reported social views with political preferences and views. In addition, social scientists will be able to study COVID-19 concerns like loneliness, interactions of the police with the community and ethnic groups, and voter intention connected with the foundational content from the GSS.
Users can find more about our content, methodological adaptations, and sample composition at our website:
About NORC at the University of Chicago
NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.
Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 217-6814 (cell).