Yellow vintage tram on the street in Lisbon, Portugal

5th International ESS Conference

The call for papers closed on 31 January 2024

Call for papers

The 5th International European Social Survey (ESS) Conference - Addressing grand societal challenges cross-nationally: Investigation, innovation and insights from 20 years of data - will be held at ICS - University of Lisbon and ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal, from Monday 8 until Wednesday 10 July 2024.

European Social Survey (ESS) data continues to influence public debates around the grand societal challenges facing Europe. Not least an ageing population; the effects of climate change; a digital future; individual health and wellbeing; reducing inequalities; improving social cohesion and more.

This 5th International ESS Conference - Addressing grand societal challenges cross-nationally: Investigation, innovation and insights from 20 years of data - will showcase research that analyses ESS data, exclusively or alongside other sources, to map societal change and stability.

There will also be a significant number of sessions related to survey methodology in the ESS and other high-quality cross-national social surveys.

Following the call for sessions earlier this year, we are now inviting paper abstracts of up to 500 words (plus 3-5 keywords) to be considered for next year’s conference.

Abstracts can be submitted for one of the 38 sessions that have been selected for the conference, listed below, or for the conference poster session.

Papers that do not obviously align with already accepted sessions are also welcome. Additional sessions may be created if the submitted abstracts necessitate them.

Papers should focus on a specific substantive or methodological theme.

The Conference Organising Committee is particularly interested in papers that analyse ESS data in a time-series context, with results including analysis from two or more of the 10 rounds.

Substantive topics covered by ESS core questionnaire modules include ancestry; crime and justice; democracy and politics; discrimination; human values; immigration; media; national and/or ethnic identity; religion; social exclusion; social trust and/or trust in institutions; subjective health and wellbeing; and socio-demographics.

Papers can also focus on rotating modules fielded in the ESS such as ageism; citizenship, involvement and democracy; climate change and energy; digital social contacts in work and family life; economic morality; family, work and wellbeing; immigration; justice and fairness of life; personal and social wellbeing; social inequalities in health; the timing of life; trust in police and criminal courts; understandings and evaluations of democracy; welfare; and our COVID-19 module that included items on trust in science, vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories.

As the ESS is a source of methodological excellence, papers related to survey methods are also welcome, including those that can help guide the upcoming transition to a self-completion survey by 2027. Methodological topics include data collection; data processing and archiving; data quality; interviewer effects; measurement error; mode(s) of data collection; nonresponse bias; questionnaire development; response scales; sampling and weighting; survey data harmonisation; and translation.

Authors are encouraged to enhance their papers by incorporating reflections on policy relevance where possible.

Submissions should include a summary of the research undertaken, information about the presenting author(s), details of the topic(s) and round(s) of ESS data analysed, and, where applicable, other data sources.

All abstracts will be reviewed by the Conference Organising Committee and the relevant session conveners. The Committee reserves the right to relocate papers in different sessions, should it be more appropriate.

List of sessions

20 years of ESS in Portugal: A tribute to João Ferreira de Almeida

Chairs: Alice Ramos (ICS - University of Lisbon), Madalena Ramos (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon), Anália Torres (ISCSP - University of Lisbon), Jorge Vala (ICS - University of Lisbon)

ESS data in Portugal has been collected since 2002, which makes it one of the most reliable and quality sources of data on values and attitudes regarding a broad variety of social issues. With this session we would like to invite Portuguese researchers to reflect on the 20 years of ESS and to present their own work, whether on a country specific level as in a cross-country level analysis. With this session we want also to pay tribute to João Ferreira de Almeida, member of the ESS Scientific Advisory Board (2002-2017), deceased in 2022, for his leading and decisive role on the participation of Portugal in the ESS since the beginning of the project.

Are there any democrats after 35 years of democratic consolidation? Challenges to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Chairs: Jaroslava Pospíšilová, Klára Plecitá (Institute of Sociology CAS)

The Central and Eastern European (CEE) region has witnessed remarkable political transformations over the past three decades since the fall of communism. However, it is evident that many countries in the CEE region still face significant challenges in consolidating and sustaining democratic systems. Only a few of the countries in the region are evaluated as consolidated democracies according to the Freedom House ratings.

Furthermore, even within those countries considered consolidated, there is a concerning phenomenon known as "illiberal swerving." This term refers to instances where governments, despite maintaining democratic façades, adopt illiberal policies and practices that undermine the principles of democracy, such as the rule of law and respect for human rights. Some countries in the region have gone a step further, veering towards autocracy, raising alarms about the sustainability of democratic systems.

These delicate democratization processes face additional challenges from global crises, notably the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. These crises have placed significant stress on already fragile democracies, and governments have sometimes leveraged these situations to tighten their grip on power. The resulting climate of uncertainty and fear has provided fertile ground for the emergence of populist movements and the promotion of far-right ideologies.

One alarming trend in the region is the growing distrust in democratic institutions, including parliaments, the judiciary, and the media. Technocracy and authoritarianism are on the rise, eroding the foundations of democratic governance. Some leaders have exploited crises, such as the pandemic, to impose restrictions on civil liberties, leading to concerns about the erosion of individual freedoms.

The proposed session aims to delve into the current state of democracy in the CEE region by examining how these challenges and crises have influenced the attitudes of its citizens. Are the citizens of CEE countries democrats 35 years after the fall of communism? European Social Survey (ESS) offers a wealth of information on citizens' perspectives. Through the analysis of ESS data, we can gain insights into citizens' attitudes toward democracy, their adherence to democratic values, the extent of trust in institutions, and the level of support for alternative forms of governance, including autocracy.

Attitudes towards economic redistribution, inequality and fairness

Chair: Javier Olivera (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research, LISER) and Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru)

New methods and data sources confirm that income and wealth inequalities have continued to increase over the last three decades. The level of perceived inequality influences the demand for economic redistribution, but it is not the only factor at work in the mental map of attitudes towards redistribution. Beliefs about the source of inequality are key to understanding the desired level of redistribution. People who believe that inequality arises from differences in effort will tend to demand less redistribution, while those who believe that inequality is due to differences in circumstances beyond the control of individuals will tend to demand more redistribution. Similarly, earlier studies regularly found that political ideology was an important predictor of attitudes towards redistribution, but recent evidence suggests that both those who consider themselves on the left and those who consider themselves on the right advocate more redistribution.

This call seeks to explain with ESS data and other international values surveys (WVS, EVS, ISSP, etc.) new trends in predictors of attitudes towards redistribution. Particular emphasis is placed on cross-national studies using ESS data and other surveys together with time-varying national statistics. These statistics are primarily variables about the level of different forms economic inequality and parameters of the tax schedule (such as tax incidence, progressivity, tax rate levels, etc. Two special ESS modules about fairness and social justice views of ESS fielded in 2008 and 2016 are also of key importance for this call as they allow including several beliefs on the analysis of attitudes towards redistribution across time and country.

Changing inequalities in international comparison

Chairs: Pia Blossfeld, Wilfred Uunk (University of Innsbruck), Tomáš Katrňák (Masaryk University)

The analysis of social inequality is a perennial topic in sociological research. In particular, it is attracting renewed interest in European countries against the backdrop of the recent inflation crisis. We want to know what is the state of social inequality in European countries. In this session we will invite and discuss recent papers on educational inequality, social mobility and homogamy based on the European Social Survey. We are particularly interested in the following questions: How has educational expansion shaped educational inequalities? How do educational inequalities differ by institutional background (educational institutions or welfare systems)? What analyses are available on the use of unidimensional or multidimensional approaches to operationalize social origin with the European Social Survey? Do countries show similar or different patterns in absolute and relative mobility rates? How has homogamy changed across European countries?

Data quality management in the ESS at the data and post-data collection stage

Chairs: Ole-Petter Øvrebø (Sikt - Norwegian Agency for Shared Services in Education and Research), Joost Kappelhof (SCP - The Netherlands Institute for Social Research), May Doušak (University of Ljubljana), Roberto Briceno-Rosas (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

For more than 20 years, one of the main aims of the European Social Survey (ESS) has been to provide researchers, policy makers and the wider community high quality data measuring change (and stability) over time in Europe. A significant proportion of the quality measures in contemporary cross-national surveys such as the ESS is implemented at the early stages of the survey life cycle (the design phase), be it related to questionnaire design, sample design, fieldwork plans, translation or more technical aspects of the data specifications.

While emphasizing the importance of these contributions to overall data quality, this session aims to highlight the data quality management in the ESS at the data collection and post-data collection stage. This may include well-known survey disciplines such as fieldwork monitoring and data processing, but also user contributions to data quality through what may be dubbed “the life cycle feedback-loop” in which exploration and analyses by data users result in new and improved versions of data and metadata, traditionally an important, if less communicated, part of the validation and quality enhancement of the ESS and surveys in general.

Data processing, from interim data quality checks to post-collection data cleaning may often appear as a black box to researchers and other end data users. However, the ESS prides itself on its transparency via thorough documentation and communication. Hence, the proposed session aims to present in detail our data processing and quality control procedures, clarifying which procedures are used, and examine their impact on data quality. The session is primarily focused on interim and post-collection data management at the central level but we would also invite papers dealing with related issues on a decentral (country) level. Furthermore, we would welcome papers highlighting data user contributions to data quality in the ESS. Papers related to all these issues from other surveys would also be relevant to this session.

Democracy and the COVID-19 pandemic

Chair: Kostas Gemenis (Cyprus University of Technology)

For nearly two years, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new challenge to democracy as governments around the world imposed harsh containment measures that affected nearly every aspect of economic, social, and political life. Round 10 of the ESS, which contained a special COVID-19 module (Hanson et al. 2021), and the CROss-National Online Survey (CRONOS) Panel offer a unique opportunity to reflect and reconsider the implications of the pandemic on democracy. The session welcomes papers that explore the pandemic’s implications on trust to political institutions, evaluations of democracy, and political participation, as well as papers that will look into the interplay among partisanship, socio-economic attitudes, social media use, conspiracy beliefs, and evaluation of government priorities and compliance with government policies during the pandemic. The session particularly encourages the use of the longitudinal and cross-national aspect of the ESS data, the use of multiples waves in the CRONOS Panel data, and papers that otherwise leverage the ESS data in field and survey experiments. Papers that use empirical findings to draw policy recommendations are also particularly welcome.

Digital social contacts in work and family life

Chairs: Anja-Kristin Abendroth (Bielefeld University), Tanja van der Lippe (Utrecht University), Judith Treas (University of California Irvine)

Information and communication technologies and the extension of digital infrastructures increasingly allow for digital social contacts in work and family life. Moreover, the global COVID-19 pandemic, with social distancing measures in place, increased the experiences with digital social contacts with colleagues and supervisors as well as family members. The implications for workplace flexibility in time, place and employment contract as well as family relationship quality are highly debated. An optimistic scenario foresees improved maintenance of existing relationships and improved flexible adaption of the work and family spheres. A more pessimistic perspective suggests that digital social contacts erode social capital, involve more precarious work contracts and/or result in a blurring of boundaries between work and family life fostering conflicts between the life domains.

Empirical evidence, typically based on small-scale, single country studies, has yielded mixed findings, suggesting that social circumstances produce different effects. Opportunities-based arguments from research on the digital social divide point to differences in home and workplace access to digital communication and digital capacities from state investments in technology and skill development. Needs-based arguments refer to restrictions on face-to-face contact due to geographic distance, living arrangements, teleworking or long work hours--all differing between countries/regions depending on employment rates, welfare and labor protections, or family policies. Following trust-based arguments, the generalized trust, openness, and privacy policies of countries reflect privacy concerns limiting the use of digital communication and the digital exchange of support and appreciation. Influence-based arguments address individuals’ agency to limit the costs involved in digital communication, depending on country context and work or family cultures.

The session on DSC invites contributions on the respective module on “Digital Social Contexts in Work and Family Life” in the ESS Round 10 on the following guiding questions:

  1. Does digital social contact in work and family life, its evaluation, and consequences differ between European countries and to what extent can these differences be explained by differences in digital infrastructures, national policies, demographic composition, and economic circumstances?
  2. Are there gender, parenthood, migration and class-specific patterns of digital social contacts in the spheres of work and family or their interfaces?
  3. How does digital social contact shape relationship quality, well-being, resources and demands in work, family and/or community as well as the intersection of these life spheres?
  4. Does digital social contact mitigate or reinforce gender or other social inequalities in the family or workforce?

Digital transition, wellbeing and environmental perceptions

Chairs: Ana Suárez Álvarez, María R. Vicente (University of Oviedo)

Since the last decade of the 20th century, as digital technologies began to spread, research on inequalities, social impacts and effects of the use of these technologies began to be developed. This has highlighted the great importance of research on digital transformation, which is concerned with the economic and social effects of integrating digital technologies into people's lives.

The expansion these technologies has unevenly across society. The term digital divide was coined as early as the 1990s, to describe inequalities referred to the access and uptake of digital technologies. Differences in access to digital technologies is what was called the first digital divide, which later on, gave rise to other types of divides, such as the divide on digital skills.

Likewise, digital technologies play a crucial role in numerous aspects of daily life, such as education, communication, leisure, or work. As a result, is of crucial importance to understand how these technologies are affecting individuals’ well-being given that the ultimate effect of the integration of technologies in all aspects of our lives would be in our well-being.

At the same time, our society is also undergoing a green transition, and social concern about climate change is a central issue. In this sense, it is of particular interest to understand how this green transition is related to the digital transition and, at the same time, how individuals' environmental perceptions and concerns affect their levels of well-being.

In this framework, this session welcomes proposals using the ESS and related to one of the following two research topics: (1) Digital inequalities and individuals (2) Digital transition and environmental perceptions (3) Environmental perceptions and well-being.

Of particular interest for this session are proposals of cross-country analyses using the ESS Round 10 rotating module on "Digital social contact in work and family life", investigating the causes of inequalities in digital skills and their relationship to well-being. Also, proposals that try to shed light on how the use of digital technologies such as the internet affect people's well-being, using variables from the Media and social trust and Subjective well-being categories. Finally, proposals analyzing how people's environmental perceptions are related to and affect the digital transition and individuals' well-being, using variables on environmental perceptions, such as those included in Rounds 10 and 8.

Proposals focusing on topics other than the above, but related to the digital transition, well-being or environmental perceptions, are also welcome.

Explaining attitudes toward immigrants

Chairs: Eldad Davidov (University of Cologne), Anthony Heath (University of Oxford), Oshrat Hochman (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences), Vera Messing (Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Alice Ramos (ICS - University of Lisbon), Peter Schmidt (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen)

The module on attitudes to immigration has been fielded in the 1st and the 7th rounds of the ESS, and it is going to be fielded again in Round 12. This module has been widely used by academics and policy makers, and the topic remains highly salient for theory, research and political debates. The key questions from the previous modules which have been the most widely used include the measurement of attitudes toward different immigrant groups, realistic and symbolic threat, contact quantity and quality with immigrants, social distance, subjective group size, conditions to accept immigrants, fraternal deprivation, or racism, just to name a few. A small number of core items on immigration have been asked in every round of the European Social Survey. In this session we invite researchers to present their ongoing research on attitudes toward immigration and related topics using ESS data, particularly (but not necessarily) from a comparative perspective.

Exploring meso-level dynamics: Experiences of scarcity and socio-political engagement

Chairs: Laura Silva (Paris School of Economics and Sciences Po), Franco Bonomi Bezzo (University of Milan and French Institute for Demographic Studies, INED)

The place in which individuals live plays a crucial role in shaping their level of active political engagement (Dacombe and Parvin, 2021) and their participation in local associations (Huckfeldt, 1979). Numerous qualitative studies have shed light on the diminished involvement in voluntary associations within impoverished areas (O'Brien, 1974; Wilson, 2011). Small (2002) conducted an ethnographic study in deprived communities, uncovering the intricate dynamics of participation in associations and the structural constraints imposed by poverty. This evidence implies that the reduced participation in deprived areas isn't merely a result of individuals lacking adequate resources or education to form social organizations. Rather, it suggests that the concentration of deprivation reinforces group-level scarcity in social life. However, a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms is still lacking.

Embracing a Durkheimian perspective, we recognize that individual attitudes are influenced not only by individual predispositions but also by a) the community where individuals were raised and b) the community they currently reside in. Extant research on political socialization has emphasized the significance of contemporary exposure to deprivation, as well as of exposure during childhood, given the enduring impact of poverty on individuals' perceptions of the world as they progress into adulthood. We aim at deepen the understanding of these intricate relationships and the multi-faceted interplay of societal factors in shaping social and political engagement.

The objective of this session is to critically re-examine findings from both qualitative and quantitative studies, striving to contribute to the development of a complexity theory on political attitudes and behaviours at the meso-level. We will consider each submission but are especially looking for contributions exploring the following areas:

  1. Meso-levels
    • Neighbourhoods
    • Regions
    • Workplace
    • School
  2. Dimensions of scarcity
    • Economic
    • Climate risk
    • Infrastructural or service deprivation
    • Welfare inefficiency
  3. Outcomes, attitudes and behaviours related to:
    • Inequality
    • Political engagement
    • Redistribution
    • Climate justice

Exploring racisms and ethnoracial exclusion through the ESS

Chairs: Aaron Ponce (Indiana University), Sandra Marquart-Pyatt (Michigan State University)

We propose a session on racisms and ethnoracist exclusion in Europe. The ESS immigration modules (rounds 1 and 7) and repeated questions on anti-immigrant attitudes have led to a wealth of research exploring the contours of inclusion-exclusion across Europe. Exciting new items in wave 7 have broadened the scope to include measures of cultural and biological racisms and the exclusion of specific immigrant groups. This development now allows the testing of hypotheses motivated by theories of cultural racism, for example. Cultural racism theories hold that old forms of biological racism have become socially unacceptable in many contexts and have been replaced by forms of racism that refer to innate and insurmountable cultural differences between ingroup and outgroup. Recent research using the ESS has begun to analyze and compare cultural and biological racisms (Bratt 2022; Caller and Gorodzeisky 2022; Gorodzeisky and Semyonov 2019; Ramos et al. 2020). Such research has the potential to illuminate whether a belief in cultural superiority is a relatively innocuous perspective or whether it is something closer to racist thought, like classical biological racism (Bratt 2022). Other research using the ESS has focused on the exclusion of specific immigrant groups, like Muslims (Castanho Silva 2018; Gorodzeisky and Semyonov 2019; Ponce 2019). Such research improves our understanding of symbolic boundary processes and helps identify which immigrant groups are consistently viewed as existing outside of the boundaries of Europeanness.

How can ESS data help research on attitudes toward immigrants and immigration move beyond the testing of conventional group threat theories? This session is open to research that breaks new ground in the study of anti-immigrant attitudes by focusing on new or old forms of racism, group-specific boundary processes, the reception of immigrants from the Global South in Europe, or anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalisms. Studies from a cross-national, case-based, or regional perspective are all welcome. Studies using the ESS items on biological and cultural racism (Round 7), the exclusion of same race-ethnicity and/or/versus different race-ethnicity immigrants (all rounds), the exclusion of immigrants from poor countries outside of Europe (all rounds), and specific items on Muslim, Roma, and Jewish immigrants (Round 7) are particularly welcome.

Exploring variations within and between South European and other ESS countries

Chairs: Alice Ramos (ICS - University of Lisbon), Theoni Stathopoulou (National Centre for Social Research, EKKE), Stelios Stylianou (Cyprus University of Technology)

Since its inception, the South European Network (SEN), composed by Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, has aimed to identify shared issues and collaborative solutions. In this session, we invite researchers from the SEN countries and beyond, to showcase their work, addressing the profound societal challenges Europe is confronting. Against the backdrop of these challenges, scholars who have conducted research utilizing ESS data are invited to address topics including but not limited to climate change, democracy, immigration, digitalization, pandemic-related concerns, gender dynamics, rising living costs, demographic aging, and escalating health disparities. This session presents a valuable opportunity to delve into the similarities, differences, and potential unique profiles of the SEN countries, in comparison to other ESS participating countries. Papers may employ a methodological or substantive approach and focus on longitudinal or single-round ESS data.

Generating new insights from the CROss-National Online Survey 2 (CRONOS-2) panel

Chairs: Gianmaria Bottoni (City, University of London), Rory Fitzgerald (City, University of London)

The CROss-National Online Survey 2 (CRONOS-2) panel is the world’s first large-scale cross-national probability-based online panel following an input-harmonised approach – panel recruitment, setup, maintenance, and data processing were guided by the same methodological principles in all participating countries. The panel was conducted in 12 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The CRONOS-2 project capitalised on an existing probability-based face-to-face survey to establish a probability-based sample for the web panel. After completing the ESS Round 10 face-to-face interview, respondents aged over 18 and with internet access were invited to participate in six 20-minute online surveys, along with an additional short Welcome Survey. Four of these main waves (Wave 1, Wave 2, Wave 4, and Wave 5), were cross-national waves, with identical questions asked across all participating countries. Wave 3 and Wave 6 were country-specific waves, allowing individual countries to design their own questionnaires.

The data collected online can be merged with the ESS Round 10 dataset creating a larger dataset that includes both online data and data from the ESS face-to-face interview.

This session invites papers that use CRONOS-2 data, either alone or in combination with the ESS data. The CRONOS-2 panel gives the opportunity to analyse a wide range of substantive topics dealing with climate policies, COVID-19, institutional trust, perceptions of surveys, welfare and redistribution, beginning and end of life, financial wellbeing, memory policies, technocracy and populism, attitudes toward family diversity, effect of the pandemic on mental health, societal development, trust in science, ostracism, income generation and redistribution of wealth, and finally trust, compliance, and fairness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The session is also open to papers analysing data from the country-specific waves. Contributions focused on methodological findings from the CRONOS-2 panela are also welcome.

Generational differences in attitudes and values across Europe

Chairs: Chairs: Michael Weinhardt, Mareike Bünning (The German Centre of Gerontology)

Social scientists have long been interested in whether attitudes and value preferences differ between birth cohorts and generations. A classic example of research into generational differences is the postulation of value differences between European birth cohorts in materialist and post-materialist value orientations by Ronald Inglehart. In this view, differences in the predominant socio-economic situation when growing up between generations lead to value differences that divide generations. However, the question of generational differences is not only interesting in its own right, but it is also crucial for explaining social change overall. Over time, generational differences may gradually lead to a whole new social climate on specific issues, such as climate change or same-sex marriages. Indeed, there is a wide range of social issues where younger generations may hold very different views than their parents and grandparents, such as the role of religion in public or private life or the provision of social benefits to people in need.

The session is open for contributions addressing questions such as: In what areas do generational differences exist and in which countries or parts of Europe? How do such differences relate to material conditions, cultural contexts and institutional settings in the countries where they can be detected? Do such differences change over time, and do they converge or contribute to a polarisation of European societies? What are the underlying factors and mechanisms that lead to generational differences? How do attitudinal changes between generations contribute to societal change as a whole?

All contributions should be based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS). The ESS is a unique data source to address these questions, as it offers a wide range of attitudinal measures that can be employed to investigate generational differences. Measures of interest in this context can be found in the core questionnaire, such as general values based on Schwartz’s basic human values scale, trust in institutions, and religiosity, but also through its rotating modules on topics such as experiences and expressions of ageism (2008), attitudes towards welfare provision (2008, 2016), climate change and energy (2016), immigration (2014), justice and fairness (2018), as well as understandings and evaluations of democracy (2012, 2020). Similarly welcome are methodological contributions dealing with the well-known challenge of disentangling age, cohort and period effects in analysing generational differences in attitudes and values, potentially exploiting the multi-country perspective the ESS has to offer.

Health in a digital world

Chairs: Elzbieta Bobrowicz-Campos, Luísa Lima, Cristina Camilo, Ricardo Borges Rodrigues, Rita Espanha, Henrique Martins (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)

All over the world, digital and technological progress is a reality. In the health sector, the uptake of digital technology has experienced rapid growth, becoming an important driver of health policies and practices. This aspect is visible, for example, in the new structural and functional solutions that facilitate the adaptation of healthcare units, and in the new guarantees to safeguard fundamental rights of healthcare beneficiaries and providers. Nowadays, the transition of health-related services, products, and information to a digital space is seen as an important opportunity to increase the continuity, promptness, and comfort of care provided, and to make this care more integrated, more participatory, and more personalized. As such, substantial investments are made to boost innovation in the health sector. However, the efforts to promote the inclusion and participation of all citizens in this transformative process are still insufficient, which is reflected in the persistence of the digital divide at the individual and community level.

There are several challenges that result from the large-scale use of digital technologies in health. Regardless of their technical-operational, clinical, organizational, ethical, or legal nature, they significantly impact the accessibility and quality of health services, putting at risk the exercise of individual rights and obligations and threatening the principles of solidarity and inclusion by which the communities are governed. That’s why it’s so important to look at these challenges and analyse their possible or real consequences from multiple perspectives that accommodate the views and opinions of all interested parties, including healthcare users and their digital habits, and analyse the associations with their respective support networks, health professionals, health service managers/administrators and decision makers, also considering the influence of socio-cultural, economic, political, and environmental factors.

This session intends to contribute to the discussion on the effects of digital transformation in healthcare, encouraging the submission of communications that analyse health determinants and outcomes throughout the life cycle and in different contexts or that examine in what way digital divide perpetuates or exacerbates health inequalities. We welcome studies that focus on health data collected in any of the European Social Survey (ESS) waves and interconnected with data from any ESS module, as long as the analysis and discussion of these data considers the digital challenges faced today.

How Europeans view and evaluate democracy, a decade later

Chairs: Mónica Ferrín Pereira (University of A Coruña), Pedro C. Magalhães (ICS - University of Lisbon)

Round 10 of the European Social Survey (2021-2022) included a rotating module on European’s understandings and evaluations of democracy, largely replicating a previous module applied in Round 6 (2012- 2013). At the time, Europe was going through one of deepest economic and financial crises on record. However, the results and their analysis showed that, in spite of very large variations in how Europeans evaluated the performance of their democracies, the way they conceived “democracy” pointed to a widespread support for liberal and electoral institutions, even if complemented with equally important demands for economic equality and, to a lesser extent, for opportunities for a direct say in policymaking through referendums and initiatives.

A lot has happened in the following decade, including a refugee crisis, referendums with unprecedented outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, accompanied by an underlying expansion of EU intervention in domestic politics. At the same time, radical right-wing parties have seen their electoral fortunes improve all over the continent, as the use of populist rhetoric deepened and increased. In countries such as Hungary and Poland, full fledged populist governance and a rule-of-law crisis has taken hold, with both domestic and Europe-wide consequences.

How have these developments affected Europeans’ views and evaluations of democracy? This session welcomes paper submissions addressing how views and evaluations of democracy in Europe can be mapped today and how they - and their underlying sources - have changed in this last decade, resorting to the rich and high-quality data of ESS’s Round 6 and 10. For Round 10, the original module was adapted to allow the measurement of conceptions and evaluations not only along the liberal democratic, direct democratic, and social democratic dimensions, but also along the dimension of populist democracy, a view that stresses vertical over horizontal accountability and a unrestrained responsiveness to a sovereign “people”. How has this enriched our knowledge about how Europeans understand “democracy” and evaluate the performance of their regimes?

We welcome papers both on the substantive topic - conceptions and evaluations of democracy in Europe, their causes and implications - and on the methodological challenges involved in assessing them.

Human Values in the ESS - a 20-year ongoing journey

Chair: Hester van Herk (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Schwartz’ human values framework is well established in the social sciences, but the area is still vibrant. Important novel streams of research are value heterogeneity within and between groups, emphasis on individuals’ value profiles instead of single values, and changes in values over time. With his 21-item instrument, Schwartz’ human values have been in the European Social Survey (ESS) across over 30 countries in all rounds from 2002 onwards. Lately, the values have also been included in the ESS-based surveys in Australia and South Africa.

The values in the ESS have given us not only insight into the values of individuals but also in how human values shape attitudes and behaviors. The ESS values data have been used in studies focusing on into peoples’ well-being, attitudes towards the environment, attitudes towards immigrants, political choice, entrepreneurship, and gender attitudes to name a few. In addition to studies on the impact of values on societal issues, researchers have also studied the values structure itself. Topics included amongst others the structure of human values across countries and studies assessing measurement invariance of the human values in the ESS across countries.

Research on values is still vibrant. Methodological topics are still in development as, e.g., the issue of measurement invariance is not fully resolved. Moreover, academics and also policy makers are more and more interested in peoples’ values and in particular in how they differ across groups within and across societies.

Recent research is social psychology has shown that despite being quite stable values still change over time and in particular in younger age groups. Values were found to change till about 30 years of age and then stabilise. As the ESS includes many waves and covers a 20-year period this provides opportunities not only to assess change between birth cohorts, but also allows us to assess this change across groups that are more than 20 years apart.

In the symposium we are open to many contributions related to changes in Schwartz’ human values over time and these can be either substantive or methodological.

Increasing respondent engagement in self-completion surveys

Chairs: Joost Kappelhof (SCP - The Netherlands Institute for Social Research), May Doušak (University of Ljubljana), Paulette Flore (SCP - The Netherlands Institute for Social Research), Roberto Briceno-Rosas (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

In terms of its methodological rigour and data quality, the ESS has been a benchmark international comparative face-to-face survey project for over 20 years. However, the upcoming transition from interviewer-administered to self-completion survey brings new methodological and ethical challenges to the ESS, with respondent engagement being one of them. To this end, new ways of respondent motivation in self-completion surveys need to be developed and evaluated thereby ensuring that the ESS remains the benchmark when it comes to methodological and data quality in international comparative surveys.

In face-to-face surveys, trained interviewers can keep the respondent focused on the survey and can even stop the interview when the external context (circumstances) is not appropriate. It is much more challenging to keep the respondent focused (solely) on the survey in self-completion: a paper questionnaire offers no control or information on the respondent engagement or number of sittings, and Web surveys are conducted on devices with multiple applications constantly battling for user attention. While not true for all question types and all respondents, research into cognitive processes shows that respondent focus and response times generally affect the quality of the responses (Tourangeau, 1989; Yan and Tourangeau, 2007).

Passive monitoring of the respondent by collecting paradata when they are completing a self-completion survey can provide vast and diverse information on their level of engagement. Still, it cannot increase the quality of responses while the interview is being completed in the way a trained interviewer can. Active monitoring and intervention (e.g. notifications when the respondent is speeding, straight-lining, not responding, etc.) can partly increase the respondent's focus but can also influence the responses or even willingness to complete the survey. Graphical approaches and gamification can make the survey more enjoyable. Still, the literature shows that the researchers should mainly focus on the fundamental components of respondent burden coming from the instrument itself (e.g. Guin, T. D.-L. et al, 2012).

The session is focused on both instrument design to keep the respondents engaged and approaches to monitoring and assisting the respondent through the survey in an ethically appropriate manner with the aim to produce data of the highest possible quality.

Job segmentation, social fragmentation, individual attitudes and beliefs. Where do we stand?

Chairs: Sara Romano, Alessandro Sciullo (University of Torino)

Because of technological, demographic, cultural, and global processes, work is undergoing transformations in forms and social meanings. There has been an increasing internal segmentation within the labor market, particularly in terms of differential access to contractual stability and, consequently, varying access to income continuity. Moreover, work not always seems able to guarantee protection from the risk of poverty (i.e poor work). In addition, technological innovations and processes of educational expansion are reshaping the distribution and the very content of professions. The increasing internal segmentation of the labor market and discontinuity in job careers are factors that contribute to individuals within the same occupational groups having varying social and economic conditions. Therefore, an increase in social fragmentation and a weakening of the pivotal role of work in the construction of social and individual identity is being under discussion.

The European Social Survey (ESS) stands as an invaluable database for empirically testing hypotheses concerning the decline of the centrality of work in shaping individuals' values, attitudes, and beliefs. Firstly, the ESS boasts an extensive repository of survey data with an extended temporal coverage that enables researchers to trace societal changes and trends over time. Secondly, the ESS encompasses a substantial number of countries allowing for comparative analyses. The inclusion of various cultural, economic, and political contexts enhances the robustness of findings and enables researchers to identify general patterns, including the role of different institutional arrangements. Consequently, the ESS's combination of longitudinal and cross-national perspectives makes it as the quintessential database for empirically scrutinizing hypotheses pertaining to the centrality of work in affecting individuals' attitudes and beliefs about societal issues such as, e.g. human values, social exclusion, welfare state, social inequality social trust and trust in institutions, authoritarianism.

The session aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on the evolving relationship between work and values and attitudes over time and across different countries by inviting scholars to exploit the great potential of the knowledge basis provided by ESS data. The session especially welcomes contributions:

  • Adopting a comparative and/or longitudinal perspective.
  • Considering job position in the labor market encompassing its various aspects: employment form, status, and sector, occupation.
  • Merging ESS data with other datasets allowing multilevel analysis also including the impact of institutional arrangement. that consider the contribution of institutional arrangement.

Justice and fairness in Europe

Chairs: Cristóbal Moya (DIW Berlin, Bielefeld University), Stefan Liebig (Freie Universität Berlin)

Over the past few decades, European societies have witnessed unprecedented increases in inequalities in wealth and income. Faced with more flexible labour markets, skill-based technological change, ongoing demographic change and migration, European welfare models have been unable to effectively address these rising inequalities. Accordingly, inequalities in wealth, income, education and other social resources and their consequences for social cohesion, redistribution, and democracy more generally have attracted attention, both in academic and public debate.

While some argue that increasing inequalities are always harmful and serve as proof of growing injustices in society, others see a certain degree of inequality as a necessary component of a market economy. They argue that differences in individual talents, investments made in one’s own education, or even motivation must be rewarded. Whether inequalities are large or small, good or bad, just or unjust, always seems to depend on the normative perspective from which they are illuminated. Empirical justice research shows that people differ in their preference for certain distributions and distribution rules and thus ultimately also in their perception and evaluation of existing inequalities.

This session proposes to attract and showcase some of the recent scholarship developed with the most important survey data about empirical justice produced up to date in terms of population coverage and cross-country comparability. The ESS Round 9 module - Justice and Fairness in Europe: Coping with Growing Inequalities and Heterogeneities - emphasized the aforementioned issues and allowed for the in-depth study of justice perceptions across Europe. The module, which was fielded in 2018/2019, allows the study of perceptions of justice for self and others regarding different outcomes such as income, wealth, education and job chances. Drawing on this rich pool of information, this session calls for contribution focusing on the normative views people hold on the principles that should guide the fair allocation of goods and burdens within a society, the fairness of incomes for self and for others, the fairness of life chances, and the fairness of related political procedures.

Measurement error and questionnaire design in mixed-mode data collection in large-scale cross-national surveys. Challenges and solutions

Chairs: Vera Messing, Bence Ságvári, Ádám Stefkovics, Blanka Szeitl (HUN-REN Centre for Social Sciences, Hungary)

In the past few years, large-scale surveys such as the ESS have faced issues with declining response rates and escalating costs associated with conducting surveys (Brick and Williams, 2013; de Leeuw, Hox and Luiten, 2018). In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed researchers further to experiment with other methods. As a result, many of these projects (e.g., the EVS or the GSS) have started introducing self-administered modes and using a mixed-mode design as an alternative to traditional face-to-face data collections. Particularly, push-to-web approaches (Dillman, 2017) have so far been the most promising. While the primary method of the ESS remains face-to-face, the ESS has a clear objective to transition to a mixed-mode setting in the upcoming period. The use of multiple modes may come with benefits (lower costs, increase in response rates, decrease in certain types of sample biases), but can be a source of measurement error at the same time. Mode effects can impact time trends or introduce additional measurement error in county-level comparisons. Thus, understanding the consequences of mode shifts and finding optimal mixed-mode designs are critical to the ESS. In this session, we invite contributions which provide insight into the impact of survey mode on measurement errors or present findings related to mixed-mode design choices and questionnaire design. Contributions may cover the following topics but are not limited to:

  • Nonresponse in mixed-mode surveys (e.g., response rates, nonresponse bias, follow-ups)
  • The impact of survey mode on data quality and total survey error
  • Reliability of measurements in mixed-method design
  • Adapting questionnaire design to mixed-mode surveys
  • Consequences of mode switches on time series in repeated cross-sectional surveys
  • Cross-cultural differences in mode effects

More than a decade of research into switching general population surveys from interviewer-based to self-completion modes. Findings regarding mode-switch over time

Chairs: Michèle Ernst Stähli, Michael Ochsner and Alexandre Pollien (FORS - Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences)

General population surveys are currently challenged by several societal developments, such as budget constraints and the respondents’ more active lifestyle, which leads to a lower contact success rate and higher costs in interviewer-based survey designs. At the same time, internet penetration rates are increasing fast and steadily. General population surveys are therefore pushed to innovating the design and several experiments on different designs for fielding a general population survey on the web have been fielded for more than a decade now. Survey methodologists study mode effects between interviewer-based and web/paper self-completion for over a decade. For example, Switzerland has fielded a comprehensive mixed-mode experiment using the European Social Survey (ESS) in 2012, a complex experiment on push-to-web designs using the European Values Study has been fielded in six countries in 2017 and during the pandemic, the ESS has been fielded as a self-completion web/paper survey in several countries in 2021. Given the change towards self-completion of the ESS in 2027, several experiments based on the ESS questionnaire have been fielded or are in the field.

This session welcomes contributions that show the effects of a mode switch on results of general population surveys with a special focus on changes over time. This includes two types of research questions: effects of a mode-switch on time-series data as well as the changes in effects of a mode-switch over time. The first type of research questions includes how to demonstrate a mode effect in a time-series, how to correct for mode effects, how to visualize time-series with a mode change in-between and many more. The second type of research questions includes changes over time in under- or overrepresentation of specific groups in the population, changes in, or persistency of, mode effects regarding some variables or change in the share of paper vs. web participation, mobile participation etc. We welcome contributions based on ESS data but also based on any other general population survey that provides insights into the effect of switching from an interviewer-based to a self-completion survey relevant to the mode-switch of ESS foreseen in 2027 (e.g., including items and concepts used also in the ESS, such as trust, attitudes towards democracy, immigration, family, or welfare state).

Poster session

Chair: Stefan Swift (European Social Survey)

European Social Survey (ESS) data continues to influence public debates around the grand societal challenges Europe. Not least an ageing population; the effects of climate change; a digital future; individual health and wellbeing; reducing inequalities; improving social cohesion and more.

This 5th International ESS Conference - Addressing grand societal challenges cross-nationally: Investigation, innovation and insights from 20 years of data - will showcase research that analyses ESS data, exclusively or alongside other sources, to map societal change and stability.

Abstracts can be submitted here for the conference poster session. Posters can be on any topic - methodological or substantive - covered by the ESS.

Prejudice and discrimination against minority groups over time and across nations

Chairs: Christin-Melanie Vauclair (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon), Maksim Rudnev (University of Waterloo)

The European Social Survey provides a unique opportunity to study prejudice and perceived discrimination against social minorities across time and varying societal contexts. Its extensive coverage of a range of topics and populations enables the exploration of innovative research questions, contrasting socio-cultural realities and individual perceptions of minority groups. How are the attitudes of the majority reflected in the minorities' experiences and perceptions of discrimination? How does the temporal and regional context interfere in this association? These types of multi-level and cross-level relations offer crucial insights into psychosocial processes and intergroup relations.

Furthermore, with its large and representative samples, the ESS facilitates the adoption of intersectionality perspectives, illuminating the unique experiences and various outcomes among a large variety of granular minority groups. It helps addressing the issue of multiple jeopardies. Simultaneously, there has been a significant change over the past two decades concerning perceived discrimination. Activist movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have heightened individual sensitivities to issues of discrimination. Additionally, there has been a transformation in societal norms related to reporting experiences of discrimination in the social media. The question remains as to how these shifts are reflected in the population and to what extent is varies across minority groups and societal contexts.

Therefore, this session invites papers focusing on the perceived discrimination of minority groups and potential outcomes, considering contextual factors and/or employing an intersectionality approach. We also welcome submissions that contribute methodologically by critically examining how perceived discrimination and prejudice are operationalized in the ESS. This includes considering the multilevel interplay between time period, societal context, and individual factors, or by addressing intersectionality.

Quality of life after retirement - Inequalities, health, and wellbeing of older Europeans

Chairs: Kinga Wysieńska-Di Carlo, Ewa Potępa (Polish Academy of Sciences)

The health and well-being of older people is central to their daily experiences and longevity. The population of Europe is aging rapidly, which means that exploring mechanisms generating variability in health and well-being outcomes is crucial for developing both robust theoretical models as well as effective policies. Inequalities in health-related outcomes affected by social factors can - to a degree - be remedied by appropriate and targeted social policies.

Bauknecht and Merkel’s (2022) cohort study using ESS 1 and ESS 9 show an increase between 2002 and 2018 in the share of older persons assessing their health as “good” or “very good.” Despite that overall improvement, differences in self-reported health and well-being between high- and low-income persist among individuals nearing or post-retirement. Systematic reviews of European studies also show that income and other indicators of socio-economic status play a significant role in subjective health and well-being outcomes.

The aim of this session is to discuss the research on factors explaining variability in health and well-being of the elderly people in Europe from individual, cohort, and population perspectives. We thus invite papers examining questions that include (but are not limited to):

  1. Multi-level correlates of self-reported health, quality of life, life satisfaction, and well-being.
  2. Health and well-being variability in life-course perspective.
  3. Factors mediating the associations between SES and subjective health and well-being.
  4. The effects of gender, ethnicity, and migration status on well-being and life satisfaction.
  5. Social support, pension systems, and well-being outcomes.
  6. The effects of pandemics on the well-being outcomes of retirees.

Questionnaire translation and language - basic elements of cross-cultural survey projects

Chair: Brita Dorer (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

In cross- cultural survey projects, national questionnaires are usually developed by translating one or more source questionnaires into all relevant target languages. For the comparability of the data gathered by such multilingual survey projects, it is of utmost importance that the quality of all translations is of highest quality, and that all translated questionnaires do ideally “ask the same questions” as the source questionnaire(s).

The ESS has been the first cross-cultural survey to rigorously implement the translation scheme “TRAPD” (consisting of the steps Translation, Review, Adjudication, Pretesting and Documentation), based on an interdisciplinary team or committee approach, since its beginning. Currently preparing its 12th round, translating its questionnaires has been a particular focus in all ESS rounds so far. By setting high standards to its translations and often being at the forefront of new questionnaire translation developments, the ESS’ translation scheme has been inspiring others within the community. This does not only refer to the translation process as such – including, for instance, its approaches to translate into shared languages or to systematically assess its translation qualities –, but also to developing its source questionnaire, which is formulated in a way to minimise later translation problems as much as possible by involving translation experts in the source questionnaire development and carrying out “advance translations”. Experimenting with and implementing innovations, e.g., in the field of translation technology, is a core element of the ESS translation approaches.

This session invites presentations on various aspects related to questionnaire translation or survey language in a broader sense, whether linked to the ESS or not. Topics may cover different approaches or methods to translate questionnaires, to assess or measure translation quality; technical and other innovations in the field; looking closer at existing ESS translations, e.g., into shared languages, comparing or assessing particular translations or expressions; discussing translatability matters, also related to questionnaire design or pretesting; other linguistic or language-related topics, such as minority languages, choice of interview or questionnaire language, easy or plain language, gender aspects in language, or the influence of translation and/or language on survey results.

Remote working and wellbeing across Europe: insights from the ESS

Chairs: Pedro Ferreira (University of Aveiro), Sofia Gomes (University Portucalense)

One of the main changes brought about by the covid-19 pandemic was the intensification of the use of new ways of working, especially those based on new information and communication technologies (ICT) (Kingma, 2019). Although, in 2020, these unconventional forms of work (e.g. teleworking, working from home, or working from anywhere), were not completely new, the constraints implemented around the world have led organizations and people implementing remote working solutions, specially work from home (Wang et al. 2021; OECD 2021).

The mass adoption of this type of work organization, as a result of the constraints imposed by an unprecedented pandemic situation, created new challenges in the world of work (Ferreira and Gomes, 2023). Working remotely is said to bring several advantages, such as greater flexibility and reduced commuting time (Nakrošienè et al., 2019). However, there is also evidence that demonstrates the negative effect that working remotely can have, particularly in terms of stress, social isolation, health issues, work-life balance, and general well-being (Gálvez et al. 2020; Contreras et al. 2020).

The aim of this session is to contribute to this debate through the analysis of data from the European Social Survey, especially the module "Digital Social Contacts in Work and Family Life" launched with the 10th round, in 2020. This session welcomes contributions focused on understanding the phenomenon of remote work, especially with an emphasis on health, work-life balance and well-being. Suitable proposals may be related (but not limited) to the following topics:

  • work organization and remote working
  • the role of personal values for individual outcomes when working remotely
  • remote working and job satisfaction
  • issues related with health and well-being when working remotely
  • the role of attitudes towards online/mobile communication
  • gender and differences, similarities and patterns of remote work
  • generations and differences, similarities and patterns of remote work
  • country and differences, similarities and patterns of remote work
  • specific country, industry or occupational insights

Social and political trust in comparative context

Chairs: Sandra Marquart-Pyatt (Michigan State University), Aaron Ponce (Indiana University)

Trust is widely considered the glue that binds society together, spanning scales from the individual to institutional to continental. Trust has many forms, including social and political, and can be universal as well as particular. The ESS data has amassed public opinion data on numerous measures of trust that allow examination of its composition, level, and distribution, along with its sources and consequences. Its broad temporal range combined with pan-European focus enables comparative testing of hypotheses about the reach of trust. For instance, is trust in strangers a universal moral value (Uslaner 2002, 2018), how likely are forms of trust to spill over to other domains given national, cultural, or temporal contexts, and how does particularized trust relate with and potentially translate to other types of trust, including more generalized forms (Reeskens and Hooghe 2008; Newton, Stolle, and Zmerli 2018).

We invite papers on topics encompassing social and political trust that seek to describe its many realizations across the landscape as well as to compare them using innovative methods. We welcome contributions, for example, including trust in other individuals, organizations, institutions, and the social order over time and across places. Although multi-country studies are especially encouraged, single country studies with a comparative lens will also be considered. Examples include, for instance, normative and instrumental aspects of political trust such as institutional legitimacy, government performance (Levi and Stoker 2000), evaluations of how political institutions and actors fulfill their obligations to the social and political order, trust in others, trustworthiness of societies and social systems (Putnam 2000), and the relationship between diversity and social trust (Ziller 2015).

Social inequalities: Insights from European societies

Chairs: Cícero Roberto Pereira (ICS - University of Lisbon), Christian Staerklé (University of Lausanne), Isabel Correia (University Institute of Lisbon), Jorge Vala (ICS - University of Lisbon)

Research over the past two decades has highlighted the pervasive impact of social inequalities on various aspects of people's lives, including their perceptions of society, morality, and justice. These inequalities influence attitudes towards political governance and leadership, as well as individuals' self-perceptions and lifestyle choices. In European societies, social inequalities play a central role in shaping people's lives and influence their motivation for justice, ideological beliefs, perceived legitimacy, well-being, trust, and support for equality. The European Social Survey (ESS) has provided valuable insights into these dimensions over several rounds of surveys, with a particular focus on the ESS9.

This thematic session aims to serve as a platform for researchers from different disciplines to use the data from ESS to foster academic discussions on social inequality, dimensions of social justice and related legitimacy processes. Possible topics include the relationships between actual and perceived inequality, different forms of inequality (such as nationality, social status, gender, race, or ethnicity) and their links to political behaviour and attitudes (e.g., ideologies, voting behaviour), trust and political legitimacy (e.g., populism, anti-elitism, demands for strong leadership, authoritarianism). We also look at individual and collective indicators of well-being (e.g., life satisfaction, self-esteem, interpersonal trust) and attitudes towards intergroup relations and social and cultural diversity (e.g., racism and ethnic discrimination). These dynamics of inequality can be analysed at both individual and collective levels. We invite studies that offer relevant insights into understanding the psychology of inequalities. These include studies that incorporate contextual variables such as countries or regions, studies of individual countries with a specific national focus, comparative studies of multiple countries, or mixed-methods studies that supplement ESS data with other types of information. Researchers are encouraged to consider the different levels of social justice and democratic traditions in different national contexts. We invite researchers working on these topics to submit proposals for this session, emphasising the use of ESS data to allow for comprehensive analysis and nuanced interpretations.

Social isolation vs. cohesion and the impact on mental wellbeing: Theoretical perspectives and empirical findings

Chair: Keming Yang (University of Durham)

Loneliness has been recognized as a serious public health issue world-widely, with the UK and the Japanese governments setting up a Ministry for Loneliness and the WHO commissioning new programmes on loneliness. More recently, the US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy raises alarm about the devastating impact of the ‘epidemic of loneliness’ in the United States. From the social science perspectives, this ‘epidemic’, which has been studied so far mostly from the individual perspectives, actually reflects a much deeper problem of social isolation, alienation, or disintegration at the communal and societal levels, which social scientists should pay serious attention. The aim of this session is to showcase both theoretical perspectives and empirical studies that offer insights into the social origins and forms of social isolation and its opposite (social cohesion), so that the social origins of mental distresses such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, etc. as common forms of suffering rather than clinical or medical diseases, can be better understood and revealed to the public and policy makers.

We welcome contributions from all academic disciplines that clarify the meanings of related concepts such as social isolation (or disconnection) vs. connection, social alienation vs. cohesion, social integration vs. disintegration, etc., evaluate the ways in which these concepts are measured, explore theories that offer explanations for the connections between these social opposing phenomena and mental wellbeing (or the lack of it, e.g., distress, agony, depression, etc.), and reveal the reality with well conducted empirical findings. While the European Social Survey is a major source for this line of research, we welcome studies that draw on other sources of data or compare the results from the ESS with those from other data sources. We are also open to all kinds of methodological or analytical approaches as long as they are relevant and useful for the purpose of this session.

Studying immigrants using the ESS: Methodological challenges, empirical consequences

Chairs: Stephanie Müssig (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), Antje Röder (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Since its release, scholars from various disciplines all around the world use the ESS as source for research on persons with immigrant background.

An important reason for its popularity among immigrant researchers is its bi-annual repetition and the regular participation of many Western European countries that both allow to combine data of several rounds and/or countries, resulting in a decent number of respondents with immigrant background. This circumvents the problem of small numbers that researchers usually face when using population survey data for studying immigrants. Moreover, its broad range of questions on (political) attitudes and behaviour is extra-ordinary for a multi-themed population survey, making the ESS often the only data source for studying these topics on immigrants or groups that mainly are of immigrant background, such as Muslims.

At the same time, there are reasons for reservations regarding its authoritative use on immigrants. Although ESS displays a strong awareness for the need of research on immigrants by including items that enable their identification among respondents, it is not an immigrant survey. There is no specific sampling strategy for immigrant groups, and the questionnaire is only presented in a limited set of languages– a major obstacle for the participation of new immigrants or of immigrants with little knowledge of these languages. For this reason, non-response among immigrants is probably higher than among other population groups and not at random, which is considered a severe challenge to obtain unbiased results.

Although these and other sources for potential biases are well known among scholars, they have been neither systematically investigated nor frequently addressed in publications using the ESS. Among the open questions are: how biased is immigrant data really, and to what extent are substantial results affected by this? How can we take this into account in our analyses and when interpreting the results?

We encourage contributions with methodological focus (with or without comparative approach) that, e.g.,

  • take stock of the descriptive representation of immigrants in the ESS
  • assess whether bias in descriptive representation leads to bias in the substantive results on attitudes and behaviour
  • appraise how the transition to a self-completion survey aggravates or alleviates existing caveats regarding research of immigrants with the ESS, and how to solve potential problems and pitfalls
  • address other methodological issues regarding research on immigrants with the ESS
  • use ESS data to study immigrants in an innovative way to overcome methodological challenges.

Studying personal and social wellbeing using the European Social Survey (ESS)

Chairs: Gundi Knies (Thünen-Institute of Rural Studies, Germany), Jascha Wagner (Thünen-Institute of Rural Studies, Germany), Frank Martela (Aalto University, Finland), Antonella Delle Fave (University of Milan, Italy), Mark Fabian (University of Warwick, UK)

Social policies increasingly focus on enhancing population wellbeing, and it is becoming more common to quantify the progress made toward greater human wellbeing and investigate its determinants using psychological variables such as life satisfaction, emotions, basic psychological needs, and feelings of meaning and purpose. Pioneering research from the fields of psychology and economics have concentrated on intra-individual (e.g., socio-economic or demographic) factors or the impact of the social environment (e.g., markers of social cohesion or socio-economic deprivation), while recent research from diverse fields, including sociology and geography also assess the effects of environmental contexts on wellbeing (e.g., the impact of ongoing climate change on wellbeing and mental health are already very noticeable in several ways).

The European Social Survey has been at the forefront of measuring subjective wellbeing and is unique in offering data suitable to almost all disciplines and their differing perspectives on wellbeing. Since its inception, satisfaction and happiness questions and indicators of social wellbeing ("social capital") have been included in every wave of the survey. In addition, the ESS collected more in-depth psychological wellbeing reports in 2006 and 2012. For Round 12 (2025), a repeat of this more comprehensive personal and social wellbeing module is planned.

We want to use the 2024 ESS conference as an opportunity to bring together academics from different fields to discuss the most recent research on personal and social wellbeing using ESS data and to explore the opportunities arising from the repeat module.

We are interested in eliciting research that uses the ESS wellbeing data from various perspectives. For example, we are interested in research that makes use of the ability to link ESS data with economic and sociodemographic data (which may be at national and subnational scales), assess rural-urban differences in wellbeing, or research that uses detailed wellbeing measures in the ESS to answer psychological research questions (e.g., to develop wellbeing profiles). Of course, we equally welcome research that uses the ESS personal and social wellbeing module data in other innovative ways.

The causes and consequences of political polarization

Chair: Marta Kołczyńska (Polish Academy of Sciences)

Increasing political polarization is often seen as one of the contemporary challenges to liberal democracy, and there is an ongoing debate about polarization’s causes and consequences. High levels of polarization are thought to, among other things, reduce social cohesion by increasing the distance - whether ideological or emotional - between groups based on partisan affinities, thereby increasing the cost of inter-group cooperation, finding common ground, and working toward shared goals. Moreover, high polarization increases support for illiberal parties and the readiness to favor partisan goals at the cost of democratic principles, which pose a direct threat to contemporary democracy. Increases in polarization have also been linked to the rise of populist parties and to anti-populist mobilization, which further increase polarization.

While research on polarization is extensive, it continues to be dominated by studies of the United States, and is fragmented due to the variety of conceptualizations and operationalizations of polarization. Thus, the aim of this session is thus to examine the causes and consequences of political polarization in Europe with an eye on reconciling different analytical approaches. Topics of special interest to the session include (but are not limited to):

  1. Trends in different aspects of political polarization over time,
  2. Links between political polarization and political engagement,
  3. Multi-level correlates of political polarization understood as an individual-level characteristic or a societal-level characteristic,
  4. Longitudinal analyses of polarization from the cohort perspective,
  5. Discussion of methodological challenges for measuring polarization with comparative survey data.

The European Social Survey in interdisciplinary research about the environment

Chairs: Hilde Orten (Sikt - Norwegian Agency for Shared Services in Education and Research), Claudio d’Onofrio (Lund University), Bodil Agasøster (Sikt - Norwegian Agency for Shared Services in Education and Research)

Environmental issues are not only ecological but also social and cultural impacts. To address them effectively, we need to understand how human societies interact with the environment. This session highlights the importance of social science in environmental research and vice versa and invites contributions that explore how interdisciplinary collaboration can lead to innovative and sustainable solutions. We welcome researchers from various disciplines who have used data from the European Social Survey for interdisciplinary research related to environmental issues.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Air quality and climate indicator’s effects on urban citizens’ attitudes
  • Climate action plans and solutions for green and sustainable cities
  • Climate adaptation and resilience
  • Project reports or infrastructure requirements related to multi-disciplinary use cases.

The timing of life

Chairs: Jan Van Bavel (KU Leuven), Richard Settersten (Oregon State)

Many aspects of the cultural and structural fabric of societies are shaped by social scripts about the timing of life. Some of these scripts concern ideas about when, in what order, and in what combination people should experience major life transitions: leaving the parental home, starting a full-time job, becoming parents (after marriage or not), or retiring, or being employed as a parent to young children. When do young people become old enough to be considered ‘adults’ ? When are adults considered to be “old”?

Such scripts help to organize people’s lives and reduce uncertainty about the future. People use them to evaluate progress in their and others’ lives, and lagging in achieving major milestones can affect individual and family well-being. The extent to which deviations from such scripts are acceptable tells us something about the level of tolerance in society. If a gap exists between these social expectations and opportunities to enact them, governments and citizens alike can foster actions to better align ideas and opportunities. In this sense, scripts are not only adapted in response to changing circumstances, but they can also be sources of social change. Scripts of life tend to differ for men and women, and these differences are fundamental in informing gender relations in societies; smaller differences in expectations about the timing of women’s and men’s lives suggest greater gender equality.

Data collected in Round 3 (2006/07) and Round 9 (2018/19) of the ESS included a module on the timing of life (for topline results, Billari et al., 2021). Between these two time points, societies confronted important economic and institutional changes. The Great Recession, especially, profoundly influenced the lives of Europeans. Young people were hit hardest, making youth empowerment a key policy challenge. Adults were also affected, with labour market difficulties disrupting family choices, particularly for women, bringing pressing problems related to work-life balance and gender equality. The Great Recession, in combination with increased longevity, has fuelled debates about the sustainability of pension schemes and active ageing. How have Europeans’ ideas about the timing of life changed over these 12 years? This session aims to accommodate contributions on these issues based on these ESS modules.

Billari, F.C., Badolato, L., Hagestad, G.O., Liefbroer, A.C., Settersten, R. A., Jr., Spéder, Z., & Van Bavel, J. (2021). The timing of life: Topline results from Round 9 of the ESS.

Transition to retirement - Pension systems and the challenges faced by an ageing Europe

Chairs: Kinga Wysieńska-Di Carlo (Polish Academy of Sciences), Piotr Drygas ( University of Warsaw)

Many European countries have responded to demographic challenges by introducing changes to their pension and welfare support systems. This shift from a focus on 'early retirement' to 'extended working life' has involved increasing the statutory retirement age, limiting early retirement options, or introducing incentives to encourage staying employed beyond the required tenure.

While there is general support across Europe for the government providing elderly citizens with adequate benefits, this support is contingent on the perceived standard of living of pensioners. In addition, people’s preferences regarding retirement age vary between countries and population segments.

The effectiveness of pension system reforms heavily relies on employers and older employees adjusting their norms, attitudes, and behaviors regarding work suitability and labor market participation. Therefore, understanding the determinants of such attitudinal and behavioral changes at the country, group, and individual levels is of vital theoretical and policy importance.

Furthermore, different types of pension systems may expose members of various vulnerable groups to an increased risk of poverty. These groups’ trust in and perception of justice and legitimacy of welfare institutions may decrease as a result.

The aim of this session is to discuss the research exploring various aspects of attitudes and behaviors related to retirement under different pension regimes in Europe. We invite papers examining questions that include (but are not limited to):

  1. Age norms regarding work and retirement.
  2. Ageism and discrimination against older persons in employment and daily life.
  3. Concerns about pensions and retirement.
  4. Perceptions of justice and legitimacy regarding pensions and welfare systems among older persons and retirees.
  5. Poverty and inequality among older individuals and retirees.
  6. Strategies to secure a high quality of life and future income after retirement.

Understanding the causes and consequences of welfare state attitudes in Europe

Chairs: Tijs Laenen (KU Leuven), Bart Meuleman (KU Leuven), Femke Roosma (Tilburg University)

Welfare state policies have proven to be an important buffer to the adverse effects of economic crisis, as we have observed during the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Understanding how citizens perceive and interact with the welfare state, especially in times of crisis, is therefore of paramount importance. Recent reviews (van Oorschot, Laenen, Roosma & Meuleman, 2022; Roosma & Laenen, 2023) demonstrate how the literature on welfare state attitudes has - in large part by virtue of the welfare attitudes modules of the European Social Survey - burgeoned over the past few decades. While this has vastly improved our understanding of Europeans’ welfare attitudes, important knowledge gaps remain. These include, most notably, (1) expanding the search for the determinants of welfare attitudes in new directions, for example by analyzing the impact of knowledge and lived experience, (2) exploring attitudes towards new types of welfare policy, like eco-social policies, Social Europe and universal basic income, (3) adopting a more longitudinal perspective on how welfare attitudes evolve over time in different contexts in both the short and the long term, and (4) investigating the consequences of welfare attitudes, for example on actual welfare policies and discourses.

This session invites papers that contribute to improving our understanding of welfare attitudes and their causes and consequences, using data from the European Social Survey and/or the CROss-National Online Survey (CRONOS) Panel.

Using ESS data to assess changes in homophobia and genderphobia across Europe

Chairs: Ivett Szalma and Judit Takács (Reproductive Sociology Research Group, HUN-REN Hungarian Research Network)

This session seeks answers to the question how the acceptance of gay couples has changed in different countries in Europe over the last two decades. The European Social Survey (ESS) may provide good answers to this question because it included a core item measuring homophobia from the very beginning: “Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish”. This was complemented in 2016 by two additional items (“If a close family member was a gay man or a lesbian, I would feel ashamed”; “Gay male and lesbian couples should have the same rights to adopt children as straight couples”), which allow us to measure the acceptance of lesbians, gays, and their families in several dimensions.

The nature of the ESS database makes it suitable for both temporal and cross-country comparisons. Cross-country comparisons are very important in this field, since acceptance of same-sex couples, family members and of adoption by same-sex couples vary widely across Europe. As several studies have pointed out, there is almost a demarcation line across Europe between different attitudes towards gay people.

In addition, in some Eastern and Eastern Central European countries, “patriotic pronatalism” is on the rise. This specific form of pronatalism encourages childbearing only within a certain framework: a favoured subset of heterosexual relationships. This phenomenon could further reinforce divisions in terms of acceptance and rejection of same-sex families in Europe.

In this session, in addition to comparative research, we also welcome research that analyses attitudes towards same-sex couples from a new perspective: for example, how negative attitudes towards voluntary childlessness might be associated with adoption by same-sex couples, or what factors might link homophobia to anti-immigration attitudes. Moreover, presentations of methodological applications regarding how to measure homophobia by comparing it via different international databases are also welcome.

What is hidden behind the curtain of value orientations: the study of lives across nations and over time

Chair: Aurelija Stelmokiene (Vytautas Magnus University)

Value orientations are significant factors in understanding different attitudes, beliefs and behavior. ESS data provides an opportunity to test this notion across nations and over time. The construct of values is central to different fields in the social sciences and humanities (Sagiv, et al., 2017). Therefore, researchers from various disciplines can contribute to knowledge about this topic. Moreover, practitioners are interested in value orientations as understanding them helps to predict human behavior. With reference to Sagiv and Schwartz (2022), values serve as guiding principles in people’s lives. Finally, discussion about the mechanisms that link values to behavior is still ongoing. ESS data could meaningfully contribute to this discussion with the analysis of direct or indirect effects of human values to various patterns of attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors in Europe.

So, we invite researchers from social sciences and humanities to propose their presentations to the section ‘’Value orientations in the study of lives across nations and over time‘‘ in ESS conference. We hope to provide answers to such questions as 1) if particular values and higher order value orientations are stable over time and across nations, how it could be explained; 2) what links between value orientations and attitudes, beliefs, behavior are the strongest; 3) what mechanisms could explain the links among values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior the best; 4) how value orientations contribute to the pursuit and fulfilment of sustainable development goals. Insights from the presentations will be a valuable input to research development and practical recommendations.

Other subjects not covered

Chair: Stefan Swift (European Social Survey)

Papers that do not obviously align with already accepted sessions are also welcome. Additional sessions may be created if the submitted abstracts necessitate them.

Sponsorship opportunities

The first major international European Social Survey conference in five years will bring together over 150 participants at ICS - University of Lisbon and ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal, from 8-10 July 2024.

A number of sponsorship opportunities are available, either individually or part of a wider package. Bespoke options are also available. Please contact the conference committee to discuss further.

Conference timetable

  • 23 August 2023: Call for sessions opens
  • 2 October 2023: Call for sessions closes
  • Late October 2023: Sessions selected and convenors notified
  • 12 December 2023: Call for papers opens
  • 31 January 2024: Call for papers closes
  • March 2024: Papers selected and notified | Draft programme released
  • April 2024: Registration opens (early bird rate)
  • May 2024: Early bird registration closes
  • June 2024: Registration closes
  • 8-10 July 2024: Conference