Halloween is coming up, so once again it’s time to talk about fears of ghosts and zombies, as shown above. Last Monday, October 20th, Chapman University issued a press release titled What Americans Fear Most - New Poll from Chapman University. It described results from the very interesting Chapman Survey on American Fears, and linked to another web page with a more detailed discussion and a link to the Complete Survey Results.
The survey covers fears, worries, and concerns. It is much broader than than typical surveys of 10 to 15 fears like the YouGov survey reported in March. The web survey was done between April 15th and 28th by GfK Group, and questioned a random sample of 1573 U. S. adults. It includes a section titled Phobias, which actually covers twelve things (specific and social fears) people really are just very afraid of.
Their general question was:
“How afraid are you of the following?”
with answers of:
Not Afraid At All
Refused (which includes don’t know)
for the following specifics which I’ve summarized [with the original longer question in square brackets]:
Animals or insects [Bugs, snakes, dogs, or any other animal/insect]
Blood or needles [Blood and/or needles]
Drowning [Drowning, water]
Enclosed spaces [Small enclosed spaces, such as caves, tunnels, closets and elevators]
Heights [High places like balconies, bridges, or roofs]
Percentages for the second level of fear, Afraid, are shown above in a second bar chart. Public Speaking (16.5%) was first, Heights (16.3%) was a very close second, Animals or Insects (14.9%) was third, Blood or Needles (12.3%) was fourth, and Enclosed Spaces (12.1%) was fifth. Drowning (11.8%) dropped to sixth. Ghosts (1.8%) was tenth, Zombies (5.3%) was eleventh, and Clowns (5.0%) was twelfth.
Percentages for the third level of fear, Somewhat Afraid, are shown above in a third bar chart. Now Animals or Insects (38.2%) was first, Strangers (36.9%) was second, Public Speaking (36.6%) was an extremely close third, Heights (36.0%) was fourth, and Enclosed Spaces (28.9%) was fifth. Drowning (28.5%) again was sixth. Again Ghosts (16.1%) was tenth, Zombies (9.3%) was eleventh, and Clowns (8.3%) was twelfth.
We also can add the percentages for the first and second levels of fear, Very Afraid and Afraid, to produce larger results as shown above in a fourth bar chart. Public Speaking (25.3%) was first, Heights (24.7%) was a close second, Animals or Insects (22.2%) was third, Drowning (19.3%) was fourth, and Blood or Needles (18.6%) was fifth. Enclosed Spaces (18.1%) was sixth. Zombies (8.9%) was ninth, Clowns (7.6%) was eleventh, and Ghosts (7.3%) was twelfth.
Finally, we can add the percentages for the first, second, and third levels of fear to produce the impressively large Sum of Fears results shown above in a fifth bar chart. Public Speaking (61.9%) was first, Heights (60.7%) was a close second, Animals or Insects (60.3%) was an extremely close third, Strangers (47.9%) was fourth, and Drowning (47.7%) was an extremely close fifth. Down at the bottom Ghosts (23.4%) was tenth, Zombies (18.2%) was eleventh, and Clowns (15.9%) was twelfth.
Zombies aren’t very terrifying now, which explains the popularity of TV shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead. We’ve gotten used to that idea. It’s quite a change from way back in 1968 when Night of the Living Dead (the original black and white film) came out.
The scary image was derived from a 1937 WPA Federal Art Project poster.
UPDATE - October 30, 2014
On October 30th Christopher Ingraham’s Wonkblog at The Washington Post was about how (based on inside information not in the Complete Survey Results I discussed above) Clowns are twice as scary to Democrats as they are to Republicans.
But, he only showed six of the twelve categories. Also, when you look on page 14 of the Chapman survey for political preferences, there are 31.4% who said they were Independent along with the 37.0% Democrat and 28.5% Republican.
It also would be interesting to compare fears based on Conservative versus Moderate versus Liberal.
I commented on his blog post.
UPDATE - October 31, 2014
Some time yesterday Mr. Ingraham wimped out and changed the headline for his post to America’s top fears: Public speaking, heights, and bugs. (Of course the link still contains his original title). That ranking matched his orange and black bar chart titled What are you so afraid of?, which really is for the sum of Very Afraid and Afraid, as shown above in my orange one.