The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) is the main source of data for the scientific study of the social attitudes, beliefs and opinions of the nation.
It measures how those attitudes change over time as well as how they compare with other societies, which helps researchers better understand how Australians think and feel about their lives. Similar surveys are run in other countries, meaning data from AuSSA also allows us to compare Australia with countries all over the world.
Access to the AuSSA data has allowed independent researchers to explore changes in social attitudes in Australia over time. For example, Andrew Norton (now at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne) has analysed AuSSA to examine changes in attitudes towards same sex relationships between 1984 and 2009, noting the major shifts in favour of same sex relationships during that period.
AuSSA is often used as a reference point for public policy debate. A number of media articles have been based on its findings, discussing topics as diverse as climate change, the welfare state and the kindness of Australians.
Similarly Australian Policy Online includes 18 different papers making use of AuSSA, including papers on perceptions of democracy, population growth, cultural identity and tax policy.
AuSSA datasets can be accessed on the AuSSA website.
With thanks to Steve McEachern, Director of the Australian Data Archive at Australian National University.