Saturday, April 5, 2014
Comparing U.S. and British 2014 YouGov fear surveys
Last month something very unusual happened. YouGov plc conducted fear surveys of adults in both Britain and the U.S. using the exact same set of questions. Those people were asked about the following 13 different fearful situations:
1. Being in a closed space
7. Flying in an airplane
10. Needles and getting shots
11. Public speaking
They were asked if they were:
A) Not afraid at all
B) Not really afraid
C) A little afraid
D) Very afraid
We can compare the results to see how similar or different they are. Before we do this, we need to look at the margins of error, or confidence intervals, which depend on the sample sizes. For the survey in Britain the sample size is 2088, so the margin of error for 95% confidence is plus or minus 2.1%. For the U.S. survey the sample size is 991 people and the margin of error is 3.1.%. (95% confidence means there is only a 1 in 20 chance that the survey result would vary by this much). If the difference between the results is greater than the sum, 5.2%, it can be considered significant statistically.
Results for Very Afraid are shown above in a bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).The top five fears for the U.S. [and their difference from the British results] are:
1. Snakes (32%) 
2. Heights (24%) 
3. Public speaking (20%) 
4. Spiders (19%) 
5. Being closed in a small space (15%) 
Significantly more U.S. adults are very afraid of snakes  and flying  than their British counterparts.
Results for A Little Afraid are shown above in a second bar chart. Now the top five fears are:
1. Public speaking (36%) 
2. Heights (33%) [-2]
3. Snakes (32%) 
4. Spiders (29%) 
5. Being closed in a small space (27%) [-2]
Significantly more U.S. Adults are a little afraid of flying  and darkness  than their British counterparts.
We also can add the percentages for A Little Afraid to those for Very Afraid to produce impressively large percentages for Total Afraid, as shown above in a third bar chart. The top five fears are:
1. Snakes (64%) 
2. Heights (57%) [-1]
3. Public speaking (56%) 
4. Spiders (48%) 
5. Being closed in a small space (42%) [-1]
Significantly more U.S. adults are afraid of snakes . spiders , flying  and darkness  than their British counterparts.
Very curiously, the same percentages in both countries were afraid of public speaking:
Very Afraid: 20%
A Little Afraid: 36%
Total Afraid: 56%
The cartoon was adapted from one in Puck back in 1901.