UK Data Service series record for:
The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey series, which began in 1983, is designed to produce annual measures of attitudinal movements to complement information gathered from a) large-scale government surveys that deal largely with facts and behaviour patterns, and b) party political attitudes data produced by the polls. One of the main purposes of the BSA is to monitor patterns of continuity and change, and examine the relative rates at which social attitudes change over time.
You can find links to the datasets in the DATA ACCESS section above. When you follow the link to a dataset you will be taken to its catalogue record which contains the following information:
Most survey data may be downloaded as SPSS, Stata or tab-delimited files. There is a download button near the top right of each catalogue record. Most datasets can be downloaded after you login to your UK Data Service account. See our Access pages for more information about how to access data.
See our Use data pages for more advice about getting started with analyses. These pages contain advice and training; guides about datasets, topics and methods and software including SPSS and Stata; information about how others have used the data and how to cite datasets. See also our Events pages for courses and webinars about how to find, use and manage data.
The BSA survey series, run in most years since 1983, is designed to produce annual measures of attitudinal movements in Great Britain. One of its main purposes is to allow the monitoring of patterns of continuity and change, and the examination of the relative rates at which attitudes, in respect of a range of social issues, change over time.
The BSA questionnaire normally comprises two parts, one administered and one for self-completion. Each year the interview questionnaire contains a number of 'core' questions, which are repeated in most years. In addition, a wide range of background and classificatory questions is included. The remainder of the questionnaire is devoted to a series of questions (modules) on a range of social, economic, political and moral issues - some asked regularly, others less often.
The BSA is supplied annually with separate datasets for each year from 1983 onwards, excluding 1988 and 1992. Also available are British Social Attitudes Survey Panel Study 1983-1986 (Study number 2197) and British Social Attitudes Survey 1983-1989 (Study number 2824). The latter is only available to download in a limited format. For an up-to-date list of available datasets, please see the DATA ACCESS section on this page.
The BSA contains data at the individual level.
Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available on the catalogue page of each dataset. To find a dataset’s catalogue page, follow the link to the dataset from this page under DATA ACCESS or from the Discover results pages.
One of the main purposes of the BSA survey is to allow the monitoring of patterns of continuity and change. Each year the interview questionnaire contains a number of 'core' questions. These cover major topic areas such as defence, the economy, labour market participation and the welfare state. The majority of these questions are repeated in most years, if not every year. In addition, a wide range of background and classificatory questions is always included. The remainder of the questionnaire is devoted to a series of questions (modules) on a range of social, economic, political and moral issues - some asked regularly, others less often.
Modules within surveys since 1985 allow cross-national comparisons. This is possible as a result of an international initiative funded by the Nuffield Foundation and known as the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). ISSP modules are always contained in the self-completion part of the questionnaire.
There was a panel element from 1983 to 1986 which you can download from the UK Data Service (British Social Attitudes Survey Panel Study 1983-1986, Study number 2197).
Yes, you do need to use weights to analyse this survey. You should read the documentation to see which biases the weight(s) adjust for and if there are multiple weights, you should check the documentation to find out which to use for your analyses.
A list of reports is shown on the National Centre for Social Research (NATCEN) Social and Political Attitudes publications pages. The reports should also be available from academic libraries. The technical reports contain detailed information about the sample, data collection and response, weighting, sampling errors and so on. The other reports, published annually as a book, summarise and interpret data from that survey year as well as making comparisons with findings from the previous surveys.
There are attitudes surveys for young people in Britain, adults in Scotland, and for adults and young people in Northern Ireland:
The BSA also contains a module that is supplied to the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) which allows cross-national comparison.
For other related studies, scroll down this page to the section ‘Related studies’.
The following is taken from the British Social Attitudes 27th Report Appendix I:
Since 1986, the British Social Attitudes surveys have included two attitude scales which aim to measure where respondents stand on certain underlying value dimensions – left–right and libertarian–authoritarian.6 Since 1987 (except 1990), a similar scale on ‘welfarism’ has been asked. Some of the items in the welfarism scale were changed in 2000–2001. The current version of the scale is listed below.
A useful way of summarising the information from a number of questions of this sort is to construct an additive index (Spector, 1992; DeVellis, 2003). This approach rests on the assumption that there is an underlying – ‘latent’ –attitudinal dimension which characterises the answers to all the questions within each scale. If so, scores on the index are likely to be a more reliable indication of the underlying attitude than the answers to any one question.
Each of these scales consists of a number of statements to which the respondent is invited to “agree strongly”, “agree”, “neither agree nor disagree”, “disagree” or “disagree strongly”.
The items are:
The indices for the three scales are formed by scoring the leftmost, most libertarian or most pro-welfare position, as 1 and the rightmost, most authoritarian or most anti-welfarist position, as 5. The “neither agree nor disagree” option is scored as 3. The scores to all the questions in each scale are added and then divided by the number of items in the scale, giving indices ranging from 1 (leftmost, most libertarian, most pro-welfare) to 5 (rightmost, most authoritarian, most anti-welfare). The scores on the three indices have been placed on the dataset.
The scales have been tested for reliability (as measured by Cronbach’s alpha). The Cronbach’s alpha (unstandardised items) for the scales in 2009 are 0.81 for the left–right scale, 0.82 for the welfarism scale and 0.75 for the libertarian–authoritarian scale. This level of reliability can be considered “good” for the left–right and welfarism scales and "respectable" for the libertarian–authoritarian scale (DeVellis, 2003: 95–96).”
Using the British Social Attitudes Survey for teaching
See our teaching pages for practical information, exemplars, and tips for using UK Data Service data in teaching, including: