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Religion & Public Opinion … 2 Jews …

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recently, as part of a paper I’m researching, I came across the General Social Survey (GSS) This is an amazing collection of data that has been collected almost annually since 1972. According to their website: "The General Social Survey (GSS) conducts basic scientific research on the structure and development of American society with a data-collection program designed to both monitor societal change within the United States and to compare the United States to other nations."

You can track changes in attitudes and behaviors over the past four decades about such issues as the role of government, social inequality, leisure activities, civil rights, volunteerism, environment, health, and many other issues. I was able to somewhat quickly create tables on how strongly people agree with spanking children by their religious affiliation; how many gays/lesbians people know by their age; and if a person went to see a movie in the past week by their zodiac sign (Leos saw the most)

But, having sung its praises, I admit that I found the site a little overwhelming to use and many of the questions are not relevant to my research.

So I turned to the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) is a clearing house for many different surveys on religion and it includes the GSS data. ARDA also hosts many other national, regional, and international surveys. It even includes the Gravestone index which focused on the types of images and secular and religious information found on gravestones in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia.

ARDA also has a handy “Custom table” maker for many of the GSS years. You first select a year (ex. 2008) and pick any two questions that you want to combine.

These sources are great for comparing Jewish results with those of other religions. If you want to look at Jewish opinions only, check out the  Jewish Survey Question Bank (JSQB), a project of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive. You can search to see what surveys have been performed and what questions included. As far as I could tell, they had the questions, and in many instances, the reports, but not the raw data so that you can’t do the same kind of custom comparisons.

Sheryl F. Stahl, Senior Associate Librarian, Frances-Henry Library.