Sources for Data

Data Services provides information and assistance to College of Arts and Letters faculty, staff, and students on procuring and subsetting datasets for research or instructional needs.

The major sources of data are described below in more detail with links to their respective web sites. You are free to access these web sites, search their holdings and browse the study abstracts. The method of accessing the data will be different for each data source. However, the cost is the same -- free of charge -- to SDSU faculty, staff and students. Some data have already been downloaded and is available in the SSRL.

Off-campus? When you access a site for which the CSU must pay a subscription for access, you will be prompted for your name (as it appears on your SDSU ID card) and Red ID and then will be passed to the archive.


The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) located at the University of Michigan is the premier archive of computer-readable social science data in the world. Thousands of datasets are available to researchers and students at ICPSR member institutions, of which the CSU is one. The ICPSR archive receives, processes, and distributes computer-readable data on phenomena occurring in over 130 countries. The content of the archive extends across economic, sociological, historical, organizational, social, psychological, and political concerns. Some examples of available datasets include:

  • U. S. Census data
  • Community and urban studies
  • Conflict, aggression, and wars within, between and among nations
  • Economic behavior, attitudes, and series of consumer surveys
  • Higher education general information surveys
  • Surveys of natural and social scientists and engineers
  • Elites and leadership studies
  • Survey of energy crisis attitudes and conservation behavior
  • Geographic names information system
  • Governmental structures, policies, and capabilities
  • Historical and contemporary public policy indicators
  • National survey on health care and health facilities
  • International systems: linkages, relationships, and events
  • Legal systems, national survey of lawyers' career satisfaction
  • Congressional roll call voting records
  • Mass political behavior and attitudes, election studies series
  • Social institutions and behavior; minorities and race relations; religion, socialization, students and youth; age and the life cycle; crime and the criminal justice system; vital statistics and family

Search Tips:

  • The Social Science Variables Database (SSVD) enables users to search for variables across datasets, compare results, and download data if desired. It does cover 2,200 studies but that is less than half of ICPSR's present holdings.
  • No results or poor results?
    • The ICPSR search engine does not do a full-text search of the codebook. It does a search of the abstract for the study. Check the thesaurus; you may have to use the synonym that ICPSR prefers for your search term or a broader term.
  • You can't do true Boolean searching currently. If you enter multiple terms into the search box it treats them as if they were connected by a Boolean AND.

Getting Data and Codebooks:

You can download directly from the ICPSR website.

  1. Perform your search.
  2. "Search Results" page gives a list of studies. Most will have a link to their own "download" page.
  3. Authorization page: enter your email address.
  4. Download page:
    • Step 1. List of data files
      • Most SDSU users will only need one: the SPSS portable file.
      • If this file is unavailable or inappropriate for you, you can get the ASCII Data File and the Setup File (syntax file), either for SPSS or SAS.
    • Step 2. Select datasets. [Only necessary when study has more than 1 data file]
  5. Use a decompression program to extract the file(s).
    • Windows XP and Windows Vista has one built-in.
      • Click on the zip file.
      • From the menu select File > Extract All
    • Other operating systems may need a program like WinZip, Alladin Expander, Stuffit Expander.

Away from campus?

Set up an account with ICPSR before you leave so that you may access their data from wherever you are.

The account is the simple username and password (MyData password) that you may already have. If you have one, you do need to validate it. Else you need to create one.

  1. Go to the login page:
  2. In the upper-right corner, click on the blue link MyData Login/Create Account.
  3. To validate an already existing account, choose "validate" from the drop-down box in the upper-right corner.
  4. You will then see a new page, "My Data," which will show at the bottom the date until which your account is valid.

Do this and your account is flagged for off-campus access for the next six months. The validation may be renewed and the term extended. For assistance contact Nadine Misiaszek at (619) 594-0103 or nadine@mail.sdsu. edu.

Other Resources

For more in-depth help on searching or creating syntax files, see the Webinar Library.

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California Field Polls

The Field Poll is an independent, non-partisan, media-sponsored public opinion news service. Surveys are conducted several times each year and measure the attitudes of the California public on prominent social and political issues. The data is timely and invaluable for research and instruction. Field Polls are archived at UC DATA and date from 1956 through to the present. Note: the last year of these polls will not yet be found in the archive. Access to the datasets, codebooks and SPSS files is possible from many on-campus computers, in particular from the library's lab and the lab in PSFA 136. To access the Field Poll files, read these directions or contact Nadine Misiaszek at (619) 594-0103 or for assistance.

An easy way to search the Field Polls (1979-2002 only) is available from UCSD or from UC DATA.

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Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research has brought together the largest collection of public opinion research available. Computer-readable data for over 10,000 separate surveys are housed here from such key organizations as Gallup, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, major TV networks, Pew Research Center and even some European pollsters. The polls date from 1935 through the present and are available to subscribers only.

To search the polls:

  1. Go to Search for Datasets.
  2. Warning - this will be a keyword search.
  3. Feel free to use and's or or's and not; in other words, Boolean searches.  You may also use the wildcard (%) symbol, the percent sign, to expand your search. The wildcard allows you to search on different forms of the same word without having to specify each form in the "Search" field. For example, enter "ethic%" when you wish to find datasets containing "ethic," "ethics"and "ethical."
  4. Type of sample may be specified: registered voters, exiting voters, residents of specific states, and sub-samples within the population including Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, parents and teenagers.
  5. If this search is not successful
    • Try a synonym or broader search term.
    • Try a full-text search of questions.
      • Click on "iPOLL Databank - iPollLogin."
        • On the home page or
        • From the navigation menu at the top of each page.
      • The first time you will need to register as a user.

To acquire a study:

  • Studies marked with the RoperExpress icon Roper Express icon may be downloaded immediately.
  • Other studies may be available through an order. Contact Nadine Misiaszek at (619) 594-0103 or

Further directions

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United States Census Bureau

American FactFinder

The website of the U.S. Census Bureau is a good entry-point to all its services. To go directly to tables of statistics, maps and data sets for the 1990 and 2000 Census, go to American FactFinder. Small extracts of data are easily made from this site but larger files are better downloaded from the ICPSR.

American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS), which replaces the long-form of the decennial census, serves as a rich source of information about social, demographic and economic characteristics of Americans. Data from the American Community Survey is now available for geographic areas with household populations as small as 20,000. Access aggregate data from American FactFinder and microdata from the American Community Survey website. Online Analysis of the 2000 - 2003 American Community Surveys (ACS), needing only your web browser and no statistical software, is available from the website of the University of California at Berkeley.

The 2010 Census also has a website.

Historical census data:

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LexisNexis Universe

LexisNexis Universe® is the educational version of LexisNexis. It is an up-to-the minute information repository of mainly full-text documents from major newspapers (domestic and international), trade journals and media transcripts in such areas of interest as general news, medicine, industry, politics and law. Users are able to perform very selective key word searches for full-text articles. These articles may not only be viewed immediately but also saved to a computer disk and/or printed. For information or assistance contact Nadine Misiaszek at (619) 594-0103 or