The Nation’s Longest-Running Social Survey Adapts to the Pandemic
Like many American institutions, the General Social Survey (GSS) faced some tough challenges recently. The nation’s longest-running survey of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors usually depends on face-to-face interviews, which the COVID-19 pandemic made challenging. In response, NORC researchers divided the GSS into two studies, each of which applied methodological adaptations that allowed the team to collect vital public opinion data during a critical time in U.S. history.
“The societal changes that took place in 2020 were unprecedented and had a direct impact on the GSS’s traditional face-to-face methodology. We are counting on the wider research community to help us make sense of the data. It’s a good challenge.”
The first study adopted a panel methodology, asking individuals who had participated in the 2016 or 2018 GSS to complete the 2020 survey online or on the phone. In addition to protecting the health and safety of interviewers and respondents, the panel approach will allow researchers to study changes at the individual level, comparing someone’s current views on topics like psychological well-being, generosity, confidence in institutions, and civil rights with what they thought several years ago. The panel study also involved a historic collaboration with the American National Election Studies (ANES) that links data from the 2016-2020 GSS panel with data from an ANES follow-up study released in 2022. That data linkage allows researchers to study changes in society before and after the 2020 election and connect respondents’ social views with their political preferences and attitudes.
The second study is a cross-sectional survey based on a fresh sample of newly selected participants in 2020. Its data was released in the fall of 2021.
This article is from our corporate newsletter, NORC Now. NORC Now keeps you informed of the full breadth of NORC’s work, the questions we help our clients answer, and the issues we help them address.