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General information about the ESS

The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted every two years across Europe since 2001. The ESS was awarded European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) status in November 2013. It is directed by a Core Scientific Team led by Rory Fitzgerald from City, University of London (UK) alongside six other partner institutions:

The ESS measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations.

The main aims of the ESS are:

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

ESS in the United Kingdom

Key Individuals in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is represented in the ESS by its National Coordinator Alun Humphrey from NatCen Social Research.

He is assisted in this role by Natalie Maplethorpe from NatCen Social Research.

Fieldwork for Round 11 of the ESS in the UK is being conducted by Ipsos.

Queries about the ESS in the UK should be sent to Alun Humphrey at

Particpation in the ESS

The UK has participated in every round of the ESS to date:


The ESS measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations across Europe. The questionnaire consists of a core module that is the same in each round, rotating modules that are dedicated to specific topics and a supplementary section dedicated to a human values scale and experimental tests.

Core questions focus on:

  • Crime
  • Democracy and politics
  • Human values
  • Immigration
  • Media use
  • National and ethnic identity
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Religion
  • Social exclusion
  • Social trust/trust in institutions
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Socio-demographics

Rotating modules focus on:

  • Immigration, citizenship & democracy (round 1, 2002)
  • Economic morality, work, family & well-being, health and care-seeking (round 2, 2004)
  • The timing of life, personal and social well-being (round 3, 2006)
  • Attitudes to ageism and attitudes to welfare (round 4, 2008)
  • Trust in the police and courts (round 5, 2010)
  • Understanding and evaluation of democracy and personal and social well-being (round 6, 2012)
  • Attitudes to immigration and health inequalities (round 7, 2014)
  • Attitudes to welfare, climate change and energy (round 8, 2016)
  • The timing of life, justice and fairness (round 9, 2018)


The ESS questionnaire in the UK is fielded using CAPI. The questionnaire is fielded in English. The questionnaire fielded is based on the source questionnaire, but country-specific information e.g. list of political parties, religions, education system and partnership status have been included or adaptations have been made to reflect the national context.

ESS samples are representative of all persons aged 15 and over (no upper age limit) resident within private households in the UK, regardless of their nationality, citizenship or language. Individuals are selected by strict random probability methods at every stage and a minimum ‘effective achieved sample size’ of 1,500 is aimed for after discounting for design effects.

The ESS sample design in the UK is a clustered and stratified two-stage random probability design and excludes the following areas: Highlands and Islands, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The sampling frame used is the Post Office Address File and is a sample of addresses.


In the UK, the following activities have taken place:

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Alun Humphrey
NatCen Social Research