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European Social Survey

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The European Social Survey takes place every two years and maps long-term attitudinal and behavioural in over 30 countries across Europe. NatCen coordinates the UK’s participation in the study. The most recent survey was in 2012.

Core topics each year include:

  • political engagement and trust
  • social and political values
  • national, ethnic and religious identify.

We also rotate two or three more detailed modules, in 2012 these were personal and social wellbeing and understanding of democracy.

Read the latest publications

Key findings from the European Social Survey include the following:

  • Higher social security spending is not linked to people being less willing to provide social support to their friends and neighbours.
  • People in most countries (including the UK) think the courts treat different ethnic minority groups equally, with the exceptions being Portugal, Israel, Spain, Sweden, Hungary and Bulgaria.
  • Many people across Europe concerned that their income in retirement will not be sufficient to cover their needs. Women are particularly concerned, especially those in Eastern European countries;
  • People with the greatest trust in their fellow citizens also tend to have the highest levels of confidence in public institutions such as the police, the legal system, parliament and politicians;
  • There is a a strong and consistent connection between education and political interest and behaviour. Every additional year of education raises the likelihood of a person voting in a national election.

More details of these findings are available on the European Social Survey website


The survey is carried out to the highest methodological standards. All countries that take part have to sign up to a rigorous set of protocols and procedures that set out how the survey has to be carried out. The interviews are all carried out face to face, and participants are selected using strict random probability sampling methods.

All ESS datasets are freely available via the ESS’s data website. This offers users the option of carrying out simple online analysis or downloading the data. A web-based training tutorial, ESS EduNet, is also available to help less experienced users. 

Alongside the face-to-face main round of the 2012 European Social Survey (ESS) we carried out a sequential mixed-mode experiment. You can read about the findings here.


View all reports and papers

Read the findings from our ESS mixed-mode experiment