Israel has been accepted as a guest member of the European Social Survey (ESS) organization this week, which sponsors what many social scientists believe to be the most comprehensive and accurate poll of attitudes and conditions on a wide range of areas, from financial well-being to moral attitudes.
ESS polls have been administered biennially since 2002, when the European Science Foundation decided that more professional and accurate methods of polling were necessary to see how citizens in European Union countries were faring under the relatively new economic union. Data aggregated by the poll is published on the Internet, and is used by social scientists, universities, governments and businesses to figure out what makes EU residents “tick.”
Now that Israel will be joining the survey, future polls will be conducted here as well, said Ido Sharir, Director-General of the Science, Space and Technology Ministry.
“Polls such as those administered by the ESS are essential for creating a more just and ethical society,” he added. “Israel’s membership in the organization will enable social scientists and decision-makers to take advantage of a huge, free international database for the benefit of the public.”
Being part of the database will also make it easier for Israeli social scientists to compare attitudes and activities in Israel to those in Europe.
Current methods of polling are fine, added Sharir, but there is no question that being a part of the same studies – using the same tools and methodologies – will produce more accurate results.
Israeli social scientists have already taken advantage of ESS data for a number of studies, comparing that information with data collected in Israel.
For example, Professor Arye Rattner of the Crime Research Center at the University of Haifa has used ESS data to compare Israeli attitudes towards police and personal safety, discovering that there is an inverse relationship between personal safety and trust in police.
In Nordic countries, for example, ESS data showed that there was a high degree of trust in police, but personal safety – both the reported crimes per capita and the feeling of citizens’ safety – was lower. In Israel, however, the information revealed that personal safety is better than in Sweden, Finland or Denmark, but Israelis trust police less than do citizens of any other European country.
With Israel becoming a member of ESS, data like that will be generated automatically, and because the methodology for conducting surveys will be the same, results will be more accurate, said Prof. Nurit Jeremiah, the ministry’s chief scientist.
“The government of Israel will now join with governments in Europe and elsewhere in the use of advanced and accurate tools to explore daily life of citizens.”