The International Social Survey Programme | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

The International Social Survey Programme

Guadalajara, Mexico, 5/2/18. In Mexico’s second-largest city, capital of the state of Jalisco, representatives from 33 national survey institutes of the International Social Survey Programme (, assembled for four days to review operations and make key decisions.

The ISSP is a network of 44 members that jointly decide upon, design, and conduct national social surveys each year, at their own expense, for the express purpose of cross-country analysis.  The integrated data set of these national surveys is archived at the GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Germany ( for the free use of social scientists from all countries.

ISSP was founded in 1984 by institutes from Australia, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.  Social Weather Stations, representing the Philippines, became its 12th member in 1990, and has conducted every ISSP survey from 1991 to 2018.


The 2018 assembly in Guadalajara was hosted by the Institute of Marketing and Opinion (, which had earlier hosted successful ISSP meetings in Mexico City in 2005 and in Puerto Vallarta in 2011.


Though most ISSP members are universities, a few are private research companies like IMO or private nonprofits like SWS.  The benefit from ISSP membership is not financial—since every member funds its own survey costs and its participation in ISSP annual assemblies and committee meetings—but the credentials from meeting its high scientific standards, and the satisfaction of contributing to social science knowledge about one’s people by generating best-quality data comparing them to others of the world.

The agenda of the Guadalajara assembly included the approval of the questionnaire for the 2019 ISSP survey on Social Inequality that was drafted and pre-tested by a committee consisting of South Africa, France, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.  Item by item, the questionnaire was discussed and voted upon in the assembly, on a one country, one vote basis.

The choice of the 2019 topic, and selection of its drafting group members, was done two years ago, in 2016, in Lithuania. The drafting group then did a detailed outline of the questionnaire, for approval of the 2017 assembly, in Switzerland.

It takes three years for an ISSP survey to be done, from choice of the topic to fielding of the component national surveys.  It takes two more years for the archive to make its first release of the integrated global dataset.  Thus the global 2016 data used in my Inquirer columns last April 14, 21 and 28 were actually quite fresh.

SWS has just submitted to the ISSP archive its Philippine surveys on Social Networks (the 2017 topic), and on Religion (the 2018 topic).  The two surveys were fielded together in April 2018 to save on costs, since the timing does not have to be exact.

The Guadalajara assembly also approved the questionnaire outline of the drafting group for the 2020 ISSP survey on Environment, the topic decided in 2017.


The Guadalajara assembly then decided that the topic for the 2021 ISSP survey would be Health and Health Care, and chose the Czech Republic, India, Iceland, Israel, and South Africa for its questionnaire drafting group.

The assembly unanimously reelected Germany as ISSP secretary-general, elected South Africa to its standing committee, and Poland and Taiwan to its methodology committee. The next assembly hosts will be India (2019) and Iceland (2020).  We look forward to how they will top the Tequila and mariachi of Jalisco.

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TAGS: Mexico, social science, survey

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