Tom W. Smith is an internationally recognized expert in survey research specializing in the study of societal change and survey methodology. Since 1980 he has been a co-principal investigator of the National Data Program for the Social Sciences and director of its General Social Survey. This is the largest and longest-term project supported by the Sociology program of the National Science Foundation. The mission of the GSS is to monitor changes and consistencies in American society and to develop models to explain change (or stability).
He is also co-founder and has been Secretary General (1997-2003) of the International Social Survey Program. The ISSP is the largest cross-national collaboration in the social sciences. It has conducted an international survey annually since 1985 and currently has 46 nations as members. In addition, he was co-principal investigator of the 2001 National Tragedy Study, which replicated key components of the 1963 Kennedy Assassination Study and measured public reactions to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the International Mental Health Stigma Study. Smith is president-elect of the World Association for Public Opinion Research.
Smith has authored more than 450 scholarly papers. His work in the social change area includes both wide ranging studies that integrate trends across many different topics and specialized studies on such matters as public attitudes towards the most important national problem, family structure and family values, ethnic and racial relations, governmental spending priorities, national pride, and sexual behavior.