General Social Survey: Chronicling Changes in American Society

A collaborative analysis by the AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2014 General Social Survey provides valuable insights into Americans’ attitudes toward a number of important policy issues in the news.
Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has chronicled Americans’ changing demographics, behaviors and attitudes. NORC at the University of Chicago conducts the survey at least every two years, and the GSS tracks opinions on a wide variety of key social, economic, and political issues. With many of the core questions remaining unchanged for the last four decades, the GSS provides researchers, journalists, and policymakers with valuable data to monitor American society.

The GSS, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, includes questions on many different aspects of American society. The survey measures attitudes on key policy issues such as spending priorities, tracks Americans’ perceptions of the economy, and social topics such as religion in America.

The 2014 GSS featured in-person interviews with nearly 2,500 people in the United States. The results of this nationally representative study contribute data to inform the national conversation about a number of important policy areas in the news in 2015. 

This report involves a collaboration between the AP-NORC Center and GSS staff, and it highlights major findings from the 2014 study across a number of GSS topics including:

  • More Americans support spending increases than budget cuts for a number of different issues including education, halting crime, and assistance to the poor.
  • Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government are at or near record lows while confidence in banks has rebounded slightly in recent years.
  • Twenty-one percent of Americans report having no religious preference, a record high, but belief that God exists remains strong (58 percent).
  • For the first time ever, more Americans support legalization of marijuana (52 percent) than oppose it (42 percent), and support for legalization has increased significantly in the last two years.
  • For the first time ever, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage (56 percent), and support for same-sex marriage is increasing across all age groups.
  • Gun ownership and hunting are at or near record lows, with 32 percent of Americans living in a house with a gun. 
  • Americans have mixed views on the government’s role in addressing economic inequality as 46 percent support government reducing income differences between the rich and poor and 37 percent oppose such action.


The General Social Survey: Chronicling Changes in American Society

 Associated Press Coverage

 GSS Web Site