The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) is Australia’s main source of data for the scientific study of the social attitudes, beliefs and opinions of Australians, how they change over time, and how they compare with other societies.
The survey is used to help researchers better understand how Australians think and feel about their lives. It produces important information about the changing views and attitudes of Australians as we move through the 21st century. Similar surveys are run in other countries, so data from AuSSA survey also allows us to compare Australia with countries all over the world.
The aims of the survey are to discover:
- the range of Australians’ views on topics that are important to all of us;
- how these views differ for people in different circumstances;
- how they have changed over the past quarter century; and
- how they compare with people in other countries.
AuSSA is also the Australian component of the International Social Survey Project (ISSP). The ISSP is a cross-national collaboration on surveys covering important topics. Each year, survey researchers in some 40 countries each do a national survey using the same questions. Here are some examples of surveys in other countries that are the equivalent to AuSSA:
- General Social Survey (GSS), United States of America
- German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), Germany
- British Social Attitudes, Great Britain
The ISSP focuses on a special topic each year, repeating that topic from time to time. The topic for 2016 is "Role of Government". This is the fifth time this has been the topic of the survey, having previously been the theme for the survey in 1985, 1990, 1996 and 2006.
Who manages the survey?
AuSSA is carried out by Academic Surveys Australia, which is the survey arm of the Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Incorporated (ACSPRI, pronounced aks-pree). ACSPRI is a consortium of universities and government research agencies, established as a non-profit organisation in 1976 to support and promote social science. It runs intensive courses on social science research methods; supports and collaborates with the Australian Data Archive; develops Open Source survey software; and undertakes surveys for university researchers.
Who uses the data?
AuSSA is an important source of data for the public, scholars, government, the community sector and the media. It is referenced in two Australian Bureau of Statistics information guides (‘Measuring Australia’s Progress’ and ‘Guide to Migrant Statistical Sources, 2011’). AuSSA data is used extensively in Commonwealth and State activities such as public submissions to parliamentary committees and enquiries, as well as reports from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).
Many non-profit organisations have drawn on AuSSA including, for example, the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance, South Australian Policy Online, the National Church Life Survey organisation, the National Judicial College of Australia and the Centre for Independent Studies. Newspaper articles based on AuSSA have appeared frequently in the Australian, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.
How is AuSSA funded?
AuSSA is funded entirely by ACSPRI’s membership. We undertake the survey as part of our mission to support scientific social research. We receive no government funding, nor commercial sponsorship for AuSSA. ACSPRI’s members include almost all the Australian universities, the main government agencies and departments involved in social science research, as well as some community sector organisations. A list of members is available here.
How are participants selected?
AuSSA aims to survey a representative sample of adult Australians. The fairest way of doing that is to draw a random sample from the Australian Electoral Roll. This means every Australian citizen has an equal chance of having their views included in the survey, and means that researchers are able to use statistical techniques to make inferences about Australian society overall on the basis of characteristics of the sample.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) supplies name and address information for the project in accordance with Item 3 of subsection 90B(4) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The information is provided to ACSPRI by the AEC on a confidential basis and is not used for any other purpose than to contact participants to invite them to participate in the survey. The name and address information cannot be linked to the survey data, and is not retained when the survey is finished.
AuSSA, and its predecessor the National Social Science Survey, have used the Commonwealth electoral roll as a sample source since 1984. It is the most accurate representation of Australian citizens available. Several other members of the International Social Survey Project , of which AuSSA is the Australian component, also use comparable registers of voters (Switzerland, New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden).
The AuSSA survey is anonymous and does not contain information that can identify participants in the study. The researchers who analyse the data do not know who participated in the survey.
Access to information from AuSSA
Researchers from several Australian universities have collaborated to produce two books that analyse the information from previous AuSSA surveys:
- Australian Social Attitudes 2: Citizenship, Work and Aspirations, is available for purchase.
- Australian Social Attitudes: The First Report is available for purchase.
AuSSA data is lodged in the public domain by its deposit in the Australian Data Archive (ADA). The ADA provides online analysis tools for those with basic data analysis skills who wish to use AuSSA in their own research.
For more information:
Tel. 1800 122 251 (free call)