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The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted across Europe since its establishment in 2001. Every two years, face-to-face interviews are conducted with newly selected, cross-sectional samples. The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations. Taken from the ESS website.

The ess package is designed to download the ESS data as easily as possible. It has a few helper functions to download rounds, rounds for a selected country and to show which rounds/countries are available. Check out the vignette for a more detailed example of the ess package.


You can install and load the development version with these commands:

# install.packages("devtools") in case you don't have it

or the stable version with:



First, you need to register at the ESS website, in case you haven’t. Please visit the register section from the ESS website. If your email is not registered at their website, an error will be raised prompting you to go register.

To explore which rounds/countries are present in the ESS use the show_*() family of functions.

#>  [1] "Albania"            "Austria"            "Belgium"           
#>  [4] "Bulgaria"           "Croatia"            "Cyprus"            
#>  [7] "Czech Republic"     "Denmark"            "Estonia"           
#> [10] "Finland"            "France"             "Germany"           
#> [13] "Greece"             "Hungary"            "Iceland"           
#> [16] "Ireland"            "Israel"             "Italy"             
#> [19] "Kosovo"             "Latvia"             "Lithuania"         
#> [22] "Luxembourg"         "Netherlands"        "Norway"            
#> [25] "Poland"             "Portugal"           "Romania"           
#> [28] "Russian Federation" "Slovakia"           "Slovenia"          
#> [31] "Spain"              "Sweden"             "Switzerland"       
#> [34] "Turkey"             "Ukraine"            "United Kingdom"

To download the first round to use in R:

one_round <- ess_rounds(1, "")

This will return a data frame containing the first round. Typically, the European Social Survey data files comes with a script that recodes missing values to NA for different programs (Stata, SPSS, SAS).

Use recode_missings to recode all values automatically.

one_round <-
  ess_rounds(1, "") %>%

See the package vignette for greater detail or see the help page with ?recode_missings. You can also download several rounds by supplying the number of rounds.

five_rounds <- ess_rounds(1:5, "")

This will download all latest versions of rounds 1 through 5 and return a list of length 5 with each round as a data frame inside the list.

You can check the available rounds with show_rounds() because if you supply a non existent round, the function will return an error.

two_rounds <- ess_rounds(c(1, 22), "")
#> Error in ess_round_url(rounds) : 
#> ESS round 22 is not a available. Check show_rounds() 

Alternatively, you can download all available rounds with ess_all_rounds().

You can also download rounds by country:

dk_two <- ess_country("Denmark", 1:2, "")

Use show_countries() to see available countries and show_country_rounds("Denmark") to see available rounds for chosen country. Alternatively, use ess_all_cntrounds() to download all available rounds of a country.

Stata, SPSS and SAS users

I’m quite aware that most ESS users don’t know R, that is why the function also allows you to download the data in Stata, SPSS or SAS format with just one line of code. Just set the only_download argument to TRUE, specify where it will be saved and specify the format to be either 'stata' (default), 'spss' or 'sas':

ess_rounds(c(1, 2),
           only_download = TRUE,
           output_dir = "my/new/directory",
           format = 'spss')

This will save the ESS rounds into separate folders and unzip them in the specified directory (if you want to know your current directory, type getwd()). This works the same way for ess_country().

Please note that this project is released with a Contributor Code of Conduct. By participating in this project you agree to abide by its terms.