Whole academic publishing industries have been built around Big Questions. There's the Big Trust Question: “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?” There's the Big Satisfaction Question: "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" Then there are the Big Questions about labour force participation, unemployment, and so on - questions so big that they are the subject of international conventions.
Last week I was asked "what is the big question about time use?" My first thought was to look at the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). The Family and Gender Roles cycle contains a candidate for The Big Time Use Question:
Q16a On average, how many hours a week do you personally spend on household work, not including childcare and leisure time activities?
It's not a perfect question. I worry that respondents would recall stereotypically female tasks, such as cleaning, in response to a question about "household work", and not think of, say, car repairs, home maintenance or yard work. This would tend to lead to an underestimate of the total amount of unpaid work done within the household, especially the work done by men (to see the question in context, click here). But it's a simple, straightforward question, and it produces nice, clean easy-to-analyze responses - which are both good things.