Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Almost half of U.S. adults think that fear of clowns is ridiculous

On January 5th CBS TV’s 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair magazine reported results from their telephone poll on a sample of 1018 U.S. adults about Fears done back in November 2014. Their 4th and silliest question asked:

Which of the following fears do you think is the most ridiculous?

As is shown above it wasn’t even close. 49% said clowns; 13% said commitment; 10% said the dentist; 8% said needles; 8% said public speaking; 7% said flying; and the remaining 5% didn’t know or answer. I’m not sure whether commitment referred to being in a relationship, or involuntary placement in a mental institution.

This was one of eleven questions. Others and the answers were:

1) Which one of the following emotions do you think has caused the most harm in the world? 30% anger; 25% fear; 21% envy; 17% depression; 3% boredom; 1% pity; 3% didn’t know or answer.

2) Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Which comes closest to your view? 82% this is a good way to view the world, 14% this is silly nonsense, 4% didn’t know or answer.

3) Which one of the following situations makes you the most anxious? 37% walking alone at night on a city street; 27% being stopped for a traffic violation; 15% hearing a pilot warn of turbulence ahead; 9% having your annual physical; 6% answering a phone without caller ID; 6% didn’t know or answer.

5) Whose wrath do you fear the most? 57% God; 15% your spouse; 11% your parents; 7% your boss; 9% none of these; 1% didn’t know or answer.

6) Which is more likely to keep you awake at night? 77% things already on your mind; 20% the unknown and unexpected; 3% didn’t know or answer.

7) Which one of the following do you most fear will put an end to humanity? 35% a nuclear war; 23% a deadly virus; 15% the Rapture; 15% global warming; 8% an asteroid hitting the earth; 4% didn’t know or answer.

8) Do you think people who risk their lives to climb Mount Everest are mostly fearless, or mostly reckless? 61% fearless; 35% reckless; 4% didn’t know or answer.

9) What do you think would make the United States more secure? To be loved around the world, or to be feared around the world? 66% loved; 30% feared; 4% didn’t know or answer.

10) Which one of the following foreign powers do you fear the most? 38% ISIS; 29% China; 19% Russia; 2% Liberia; 2% Wikileaks; 10% didn’t know or answer.

11) Which one of the following episodes in American history took the most courage? 29% the passengers of Flight 93 stopping the hijackers on September 11th; 21% Harriet Tubman helping escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad; 16% Martin Luther King marching at Selma; 13% the Founders signing the Declaration of Independence; 10% John F. Kennedy holding steady during the Cuban Missile Crisis; 6% Jonas Salk testing the polio vaccine on himself; 4% didn’t know or answer.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a speech topic (or a startling statistic to use as an opener) you might look at previous 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair polls from months in 2014,  which also typically had 11 questions. Their topics were:

January: Sports

February: Lying

March: Fashion

April: Music

May:  The Perfect Child

June: Fitness

July: Etiquette

August: Ethics

September: Royals

October: Gratitude

November: Greed

December: Self-Improvement

Two recent surveys found most Americans are not very scared of clowns. In the Chapman Survey on American Fears released on October 20, 2014 only 2.6% were Very Afraid of clowns. Another 5.0% were Afraid, and 8.3% were Somewhat Afraid.  80.4% were Not Afraid At All, and just 3.7% Refused to answer. In the YouGov survey released on March 27, 2014 only 5% were Very afraid of clowns. Another 8.0% were A little afraid, and 15% were Not really afraid. The other 72% were Not afraid at all.

In 2013 Smithsonian had a serious article by by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie on The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary. On the TV sitcom Seinfeld, Kramer was scared of clowns, like Crazy Joe Davola.

A 1939 WPA poster of a clown came from here

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