SASAS has been modelled on the National Opinion Research Center’s (NORC) General Social Survey (GSS, est. 1972) in the United States and the National Centre for Social Research’s (NatCen) British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA, est. 1983). Prof. Sir Roger Jowell, former Director of the European Social Survey (ESS), assisted in the design of the SASAS infrastructure and provided guidance on the thematic content of the survey instruments. SASAS was designed to be similar to the ESS, the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) as well as the British Election Survey. Increasing ties have been developed with the ESS in recent years.
The series has also enriched our comparative understanding of South African society through the engagement with international research infrastructures. Of particular note is the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) commitment, which has led to cross-national examination of themes such as family and changing gender roles (2012), national identity (2013), citizenship (2014), work orientation (2015) and the role of government (2016), as well as the methodological and comparative lessons being derived from structured partnership with the European Social Survey and International Wellbeing Group.
The SASAS series incorporates a strong comparative component as an integral part of its survey design. The International Social Survey Programme is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted annually since 1984. South Africa joined the ISSP as a member in 2003 and this membership allows South Africa to benchmark attitudes against other countries. The ISSP is an academically driven cross-national survey, with each member country annually fielding an agreed module of questions on a chosen topic. The SASAS team is currently chairing the drafting group preparing the 2019 social inequalities module. Increasing ties have also been developed with the ESS (European Social Survey). Three common modules were fielded in the 2014 SASAS round on attitudes towards criminal justice, health inequalities and democracy through support from a Newton Fund / NRF grant. The 2016 round included the ESS welfare attitudes module. Recognising the quality of the SASAS survey and the accompanying expertise, the SASAS team was nominated to convene/lead the ISSP 2019 Social Inequality survey that will be used to measure attitudes on social inequality around the world. The drafting group consists of South Africa (Convener/lead), England, France, Venezuela, Sweden and the Philippines.
SASAS is also a member of the International Wellbeing Group (IWbG), which focuses on comparisons of wellbeing. These linkages enable a clearer understanding of how South Africans approximate or differ from other countries on key issues of national and global importance. The 2017 round will include the ESS module on welfare attitudes, while plans are being developed for the fielding of the ESS climate change and energy module as part of the 15th SASAS round. There have also been efforts are harmonising core background measures and translation protocols.
SASAS researchers also serve on the International Social Surveys Programme’s Demographics group which advises on global best practices with regards to how best to standardize demographic variables globally.
These linkages with other research infrastructures bring a strong comparative element to the SASAS series, and enable a clearer understanding of how the South African public approximates or differs from other countries on key issues of national and global importance.