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.
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 2014 was "Citizenship". This was the second time this has been the topic of the survey, having previously been the theme for the survey in 2004.
A copy of the AuSSA 2014 questionnaire can be found at the Australian Data Archive site.
How were 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.
In 2014, 5000 citizens were randomly selected from the electoral roll. 1435 of them returned a completed questionnaire.
What questions were asked?
- What does it take to be a good citizen? Always voting in elections? Never evading taxes? Being active in social or political associations? Helping people who are worse off than you?
- Should religious extremists be allowed to hold public meetings? How about people who want to overthrow the government by force? People prejudiced against any racial or ethnic group?
- Have you ever signed a petition? Took part in a demonstration? Donated or raised funds for a political activity? Expressed your political views on the internet?
- How often do you use the media to get political news or information?
- Do you belong to a politcal party? Trade union? Church? Sporting group?
- How important is is that all citizens have an adequate standard of living? That citizens have the right not to vote? That healthcare is porvided for everyone?
- Do you feel you have any say about what the government does?
- Would you do anything if a law was being considered by parliament that you considered to be unjust or harmful? Do you think this would lead anywhere?
- Can you trust the government to do what is right most of the time?
- Do political parties give voters real policy choices? Do they encourage people to become active in politics?
- Are referendums a good way to decide important political questions?
- Are the elections in Australia fair and honest?
- How committed is the public service? How widespread is corruption in the Australian public service?
- How well is democracy working in Australia?
Respondents were asked about belonging to groups or associations. Only 1% of respondents reported belonging and actively participating in a political party. 90% say they have never belonged to a political party. More than 80% of respondents belong, or have belonged to a sports, leisure or cultural group.
Almost all participants reported that they have, or would sign a petition. Over 53% of respondents report that they have not and would never express political views on the internet.
Access to further information and results from AuSSA 2014
AuSSA data is lodged in the public domain by its deposit in the Australian Data Archive (ADA) - AuSSA 2014 archive. The ADA provides online analysis tools for those with basic data analysis skills who wish to use AuSSA in their own research. In addition, the data file can be downloaded free of charge for your own further analysis.
For more information:
Tel. 1800 122 251 (free call)