SASAS covers a wide variety of topics that tap into notable issues of relevance to contemporary South Africa. The themes contained in the annually fielded core module, together with the more in-depth rotating modules, ensure not only a data series that is wide-ranging in scope, but provide a rich analytical resource that appeals to a range of disciplines.

Some questions are repeated in each round of the survey (‘core questions’) to monitor change and continuity over time. The SASAS core module that is fielded annually includes the following topics:

  • Citizen involvement and democracy
  • Trust in institutions
  • Political values and engagement
  • Social trust
  • Social identity and intergroup relations
  • Personal and social well-being
  • Perceptions of crime and personal safety
  • Moral and social values
  • Education and occupation
  • Poverty, inequality and redress
  • Socio-demographic characteristics
  • Household circumstances

In addition, each round accommodates rotating modules on specific themes to provide detailed attitudinal evidence to inform policy and academic debate. These modules repeat every 3-5 years. Among these are those administered as part of the ISSP (International Social Survey Programme) commitment, with recent themes including family and changing gender roles (2012), national identity (2013), citizenship (2014), work orientation (2015) and the role of government (2016). Most ISSP modules repeat on a decennial basis, meaning that since 2013 there is a time series element to the comparative survey component given the module replication. Each questionnaire also includes standard demographic and background variables.

Societal attitudes and perceptions on the themes and topics mentioned above are thus currently being monitored by the survey and can be used as indicators of social direction.  As the survey matures and more data points are gathered, critical thresholds can be determined that can be used as early warning signs for potential societal challenges. SASAS focuses on variations in culture and social structure within the country and aspires to be an instrument for identifying and interpreting long-term shifts in social circumstances and values, rather than simply monitoring short-term changes.