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Finding Social Science Data for Research : Frequently Used Data

This research guide provides an introduction to using campus resources, government agencies, and consortia like ICPSR for finding and obtaining social science data.


The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) is an international consortium of over 750 member institutions. Its quantitative data archive houses over 260,000 files of research in the social and behavioral sciences. It hosts 21 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields. Our ICPSR membership allows UW-Madison affiliates to download member-only studies. It requires a UW-Madison NetID via Access Library Resource link.

Useful Features:

Roper Center

Roper Center for Public Opinion Research is the largest archive of public opinion data in the world. It holds data dating back to the 1930s and from over 100 nations. Our campus-wide subscription to the Roper Center allows UW-Madison affiliates to access iPoll, Roper Experss, Roper Explorer, Latin American Databank, and other contents. It requires a UW-Madison NetID via Access Library Resource link.

iPOLLOverall response to the question broken out by percentage Contains over 650,000 public opinion survey questions. Roper Explorer Overall response to the question broken out by percentage AND cross-tabs icon means demographic cross-tabs are available within the iPOLL question view.

Dataset SearchDataset is available using RoperExpress  Roper Express, this icon means that the dataset is available for immediate download.

The Latin American Databank (LAD) provides a portal for Latin American datasets available at Roper Center.

Data visualization on Presidential Approval is available, using the U.S. national probability-based polls housed in Roper Center.

Bibliography of publications is limited to research articles; it does not include opinion pieces, news stories, or articles in popular magazines.




Integrated Public-Use Micro Samples (IPUMS)

IPUMS (from the University of Minnesota Population Center) provides both an easy-to-use extraction system combined with standardization of data across years to make analysis easier. In addition, excellent documentation is included with each extract.


  • U.S. Decennial Census Data 1850-2010 (100% counts for 1850, 1880, 1910-1940).
  • American Community Survey (2001-2015)
  • Current Population Survey (1962-2017). Include Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Basic Monthly, and Topical Supplements.
  • National Historical Geographic Information System [NHGIS] (1790-2010). Broad range of historical population, economic, and housing data, in addition to providing geographical boundary files.
  • International Census data (data for 82 countries, from 1960-2010).