How to Use the Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior

The Guide is organized according to nine main topics:

  1. Social and religious characteristics of the electorate
  2. Partisanship and evaluation of the political parties
  3. Ideological self-identification
  4. Public opinion on public policy issues
  5. Support for the political system
  6. Political involvement and participation in politics
  7. Evaluation of the presidential candidates
  8. Evaluation of the congressional candidates
  9. Vote choice

To locate a survey question, in the main ANES Guide page click on the topic (as listed above) under which that question is likely to be found. This links to the Guide's Index, which provides a list of questions under each of these topics. Click on a question under a topic to see a summary table of the responses for each year that the question was asked. If you cannot find the question you are interested in, you can search the list of tables in the Guide for a key word (for example, vote, trust, class, interest, turnout etc.).

Not all ANES survey questions are represented in the Guide. The displays in the Guide were produced from data in the ANES Cumulative Data File. The data have been weighted by Cumulative Data File weight variables VCF0009A, CF0010A, and VCF0011A, as appropriate. The output at the bottom of each table identifies the weight variable that was used in the production of that table.   In 1964, 1968, and 1970, only the cross-section (rather than supplemental, oversample cases) have been analyzed. The date the display was generated appears at the bottom of each page so that changes, corrections, or updates can be noted. Changes or updates to the Guide will also be noted on our Announcements page.

Initial Display Table:

The first display that appears provides the following information:

  • A numerical summary of responses given to a question over time
  • Question wording
  • The variable number (denoted by Vxxx) where the xxx corresponds to the variable number)

Most of the time, the numbers that appear in the initial display table are percentages -- the percentage of respondents in each Election Study that had given each of the responses listed. When this is the case, PERCENTAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR appears under the table. The percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number and within each year they add to 100 percent (except when there are small rounding errors).

In some instances (for example, on the 100-point 'feeling' thermometers), the average response is displayed for each year, rather than percentages by response category. If averages rather than percentages are being displayed, AVERAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR will appear under the table. A single display table somtimes lists the average values over time for more than one question (i.e., for a set of related questions) or for an index that was constructed by combining responses to several questions. Any indices constructed represent variables in the ANES Cumulative Data file; a short note describing the index is always provided, however users should consult the ANES Cumulative Data File codebook for the most complete documentation.

Example of an initial display table with more information on how to interpret the numbers


The data in the initial display tables are also provided in graphs. To see a graph over time for one of the response categories in the initial display table (sometimes several response categories are combined), simply click on the category under the bulleted section for Graphs.

Example of a graph with more information on how to interpret the numbers

Responses among Demographic subgroups:

For almost all of the response categories present, the initial display table also links to tables of numerical summaries among 10 sets of demographic subgroups of respondents: by gender, race, education, income, occupation, union/non-union household, region, age cohort, partisanship, and ideology. The linked subgroup tables represent either percentages or averages, according to the type of intial display table to which it is linked. To view tables for subgroups, simply click on a response category from the bulleted list.

Example of a subgroup table with more information on how to interpret the numbers

** A double asterisk indicates that the question was not asked in that year's American National Election Study or that there are no respondents available in that year who answered the question.

- A dash indicates that the particular response option was not available in that year.

__ Underline indicates that 50 or fewer total respondents for that subgroup of the population answered the question. In such instances, the estimate is particularly unreliable. (This appears as a single asterisk in the ASCII version of tables).

Printing a Single Display:

Use the print command in your web browser to print any of the displays that appear on your screen. Readability is usually improved by using a small font or landscape orientation, or both.

Printing the Entire Guide:

First, download the Guide, as described below. This downloadable version of the Guide is in ASCII format. Using a word processing package to open and print each section of the Guide, it is best to use a fixed (non-proportional) font to view or print the files. Readability is usually improved by using a small font or landscape orientation, or both.

Each section of the Guide (1 through 9) may be downloaded. When a section is downloaded, the ASCII file for that section of the Guide will contain all tables from that section, concatenated into a single file. Tables for subgroups are included following the tables with which they are associated (graphs are not included). To download, in the Guide simply click on the link for the section desired and use your netscape browser to "save to disk" (usually found under the "file" menu option).

For data in more detail, the ANES Cumulative Data File can be downloaded for analysis.