Monitoring National Contexts

The ESS facilitates the integration of national and European-level contextual data into the main survey datasets in order to increase their analytic power and to help data users identify national variations that owe more to exogenous factors than to underlying attitudinal differences.

Certain types of attitudinal data may be particularly prone to being influenced by national and international events and discourse occurring during fieldwork. The ESS has undertaken to monitor and record relevant contextual data in a number of ways.

Event data collection was the first approach taken to measuring national context in ESS Rounds 1-5. However, this approach – and the ambiguity over what constituted an event – did not prove to be sufficiently robust or comprehensive to be adopted widely.

A more user-friendly tool for the systematic cross-national recording of events was developed and applied in ESS Rounds 6 to 8. This approach involved the recording of media claims. Additional details on the ESS media claims methodology can be found in the documents linked in the sidebar. However, this approach also poses methodological challenges in both collection and analysis as well as being quite labour intensive. From Round 9 onwards media claims coding has been discontinued.

In 2018, an independent study was commissioned to consider possible alternative approaches to collecting data on media context in the ESS. The study, conducted by an independent team of researchers from GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and EKKE, considered several potential tools for (semi-) automatic coding of media context to replace manual coding, including the use of topic modelling to facilitate a systematic search for and coding of media events. It was concluded that the current state of readiness of the available tools is not sufficient to justify the ESS investing in them at this point in time. ESS will, however, continue to monitor developments in the field for future rounds.

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Media claims

Queries about media claims should be directed to:

Related content

Data on this topic

ESS documents on this topic

Publications on this topic


Menold, N., Schaible, J., Stathopoulou, T., & Zuell, C. (2018).
Development of a methodology to measure media context in the European Social Survey


Statham, P. & Tumber, H. (2013).
Relating news analysis and public opinion: Applying a communications method as a ‘tool’ to aid interpretation of survey results. Journalism, 14 (6), 737-753

Book chapters

Fernee, H. & Stoop, I. (2013).
Contextual Data in the European Social Survey. In Aarts, K., & Wittenberg, M. (eds.), Stabiliteit en verandering in Europa, Proceedings Vierde Nederlandse Workshop ESS, 165-169