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Governments & society at large


Europe under the microscope Led by a team at City University London, the European Social Survey collects data from 34 countries to produce findings which inform social policy debate and analysis throughout Europe and beyond.


he European Social Survey’s (ESS) seven centres collaboratively provide the design and technical backup for the 34-nation project. Data from 1,800 respondents in each participating country are collected and analysed on a bi-annual basis to produce the survey. ESS’ unique standards of transparency and documentation make it a valuable resource for teaching and analysis. Students, academics, think tanks, policy focus groups and governments are among the 39,000 registered users of the ESS, 3,000 of whom are in the UK. The ESS charts and monitors changes in the policy environment as seen through citizens’ eyes. Pivotal social issues such as migration, crime, wellbeing, institutional trust and political engagement are all placed under the microscope. Professor Roger Jowell, Research Professor at City University London and Director of the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, says: “When considering new policies, governments in the past were often ignorant of their citizens’ preferences and needs. Now European governments have a source for counteracting that ignorance.” In an era of falling political participation and low electoral turnout, the ESS is becoming an ever more important aid to good government at both national and European level. Supplementing other reliable sources of official data which chart changes in people’s social and economic circumstances or behaviour, the ESS also provides rigorous crossnational data about shifts in people’s long-term perceptions, preferences, preoccupations and concerns. In 2005, the ESS became the first social science project to win the Descartes Prize for ‘excellence in scientific collaborative research’. Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research, said: “The European Social Survey has developed a unique scientific methodology for mapping changes in social attitudes… providing an authoritative source of EU data for academics and policymakers.” Five biennial ESS surveys have been undertaken since the project’s inception in 2001, embracing well over 150,000 individual interviews. Professor Jowell continues: “The data it produces has a worldwide demand. Academically driven, the ESS aims to inform social policy at national and European levels via a series of rigorous surveys of change in European attitudes, values and behavioural patterns both across nations and over time.”

Professor Sir Roger Jowell CBE is Research Professor at City University London and Founding Director of the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys. In 1969 Sir Roger co-founded Social and Community Planning Research, now the National Centre for Social Research. Sir Roger was awarded the CBE in 2001. In 2008 he was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List.

City Research and Enterprise Review 2011  
City Research and Enterprise Review 2011  

A review of City University London's Research and Enterprise activities in 2011