April 18, 2013

How to Access Pew Research Datasets

By Scott Keeter

The survey data from the Pew Research Center’s 2011 survey of Muslim Americans are now available to researchers for downloading. The dataset has been added to the Datasets page of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The telephone survey of 1,033 randomly-selected Muslim Americans was the second such study conducted by the center; the 2007 survey data are also available.

Nearly all of the survey and other quantitative data collected by the Pew Research Center’s seven projects are freely available for secondary analysis by researchers. Each project has a “Dataset” page devoted to its available data. In the example below, the website of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has a tab for “Datasets.” Clicking on that tab will bring up the dataset pages, on which individual studies are listed in reverse chronological order, by the date of the associated reports. To download a particular dataset, just click the “Download” button. You will be asked to fill out a short information sheet, which helps us better understand who is making use of our data. It also allows us to notify users if there is any update or change in the data.

It’s important to note that researchers who want to use Pew Research Center data files need to have experience working with these types of datasets, as well as statistical software such as SPSS, SAS or STATA. Most of our files are provided as SPSS .sav files, which can be converted for use with other types of statistical software. A few of our older files are provided as ASCII text files with a fixed layout. These can be read into any appropriate software.

There is always a delay between the publication of a Pew Research Center report and the release of the corresponding data, a result of the need to complete all reporting for a given study and to clean and prepare the data for public release. The lag time varies by study, and some data (including surveys of elite populations such as scientists or foreign policy experts) are never released, in order to protect respondent confidentiality. Survey data from general public surveys are cleaned to remove any information that could be used to identify individual respondents.

Pew Research datasets are widely used by scholars and students. Here are some of the most frequently-downloaded datasets in our archive:

Scott Keeter is the director of survey research for the Pew Research Center.