SASAS covers a wide variety of topics that tap into notable issues that are of relevance to contemporary South Africa. Some questions are repeated in each round of the survey (‘core questions’) to monitor change and continuity over time. The core module that is fielded annually, includes the following topics:
- Citizen involvement and democracy
- Trust in institutions
- Political values and engagement
- Social trust
- Social identity and intergroup relations
- Personal and social well-being
- Perceptions of crime and personal safety
- Moral and social values
- Education and occupation
- Poverty, inequality and redress
- Socio-demographic characteristics
- Household circumstances
In addition, each round accommodates rotating modules on specific themes to provide detailed attitudinal evidence to inform policy and academic debate. These modules repeat every 3-5 years. Among these are those administered as part of the ISSP (International Social Survey Programme) commitment, with recent themes including family and changing gender roles (2012), national identity (2013), citizenship (2014), work orientation (2015) and the role of government (2016). Most ISSP modules repeat on a decennial basis, meaning that since 2013 there is a time series element to the comparative survey component given the module replication. Each questionnaire also includes standard demographic and background variables.
Besides providing data for the ISSP, additional themed modules are included specifically for use in other HSRC research projects or are commissioned by external researchers, government departments or other non-governmental or private clients – both nationally and internationally. All modules owned by the HSRC are shared for public use at no charge. The data collection also includes data sets which have been curated on behalf of SASAS clients.
The questionnaires are based on social attitudes research and are modelled on similar long standing survey instruments in terms of content and development methodology. A theoretically grounded approach is advocated for designing new modules, ensuring that the questions included relate to key conceptual constructs, test notable hypotheses or relate to key national or international priority goals and targets. Each year, the questionnaires are piloted to test the functioning of questions in practice as well as the sequencing of modules. As for translation protocols, SASAS aims to achieve a principle of equivalence with regard to its translations. The source question is designed in English and then translated into other official languages. The procedures used involve initial translation, review, adjudication, pretesting and documenting changes made prior to finalization. All instruments, protocols and forms are submitted and reviewed by the HSRC’s Research Ethics Committee prior to each round of interviewing.