The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes - 2016 - Role of Government

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:


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.


​Data collection for the AuSSA 2016 completed in May 2017.

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 2016, 5000 citizens were randomly selected from the electoral roll. Each of them were posted an explanatory letter, followed by a questionnaire booklet and reply paid envelope. Up to three reminder mailings were sent for participants who did not return a booklet. We hope at least 1200 will return a completed questionnaire.

What questions will be asked?

Questions asked of respondents include:​

  • ​Would you say that people should obey the law without exception, or are there exceptional occasions on which people should follow their consciences even if it means breaking the law?
  • ​All systems of justice make mistakes, but which do you think is worse - to convict an innocent person or let a guilty person go free?
  • ​Which government actions are you in favour of to assist the economy? Cuts in government spending, Government financing of projects? Less government regulation? Support for new industry? Support for declining industries to protect jobs? Reducing the working week to create more jobs?
  • ​What areas would you like to see more or less government spending?​
  • ​Do you think the government should be able to keep people under surveillance, or monitor emails?
  • ​What measures should the government be able to take for national security?
  • ​In your opinion, how many politicians in Australia are involved in corruption?

Access to results from AuSSA 2016


A summary (codebook) of the results from the AuSSA 2016 is available to view in your web browser


AuSSA data is now available on the Australian Data Archive AuSSA 2016 Dataverse.

For more information:

Tel. 1800 122 251 (free call)