On October 13th Chapman University released the results from their second (Wave 2) survey of American Fears. Sherri Ledbetter blogged that:
“The Chapman University Survey of American Fears, Wave 2 (2015) provides an unprecedented look into the fears of average Americans. In April of 2015, a random sample of 1,541 adults from across the United States were asked their level of fear about eighty-eight different fears across a huge variety of topics ranging from crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology and many others.”
The survey asked about four levels of fear: Not Afraid, Slightly Afraid, Afraid, and Very Afraid.
She provided a full list for the sum of the percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid. Corruption of (Federal) Government Officials topped that list. Where did public speaking rank in the Top Ten? It didn’t (See their infographic). It wasn’t in the Top Twenty either. It was 26th. Dying was 43rd. I don’t expect than many public speaking coaches will be quoting those results, since they prefer to claim that public speaking is the biggest fear (and in the Seinfeld joke death is second). Dying seems to appear twice, but under Daily Life the question really was about fear of dying alone. Also, there's a typo for fear of the Dark, which should be 8.3% rather than 9.3%.
Details of the survey methodology and results are in .pdf files that can be downloaded.
What about detailed results from the Personal Anxieties major domain, which resembles other earlier surveys of fears? There were 18 fears, which alphabetically are as follows [with their summary terms shown in brackets]:
Deep Lakes and Oceans [Water]
Dogs, rats, or other animals [Mammals]
Small enclosed spaces [Claustrophobia]
Snakes, lizards or other reptiles [Reptiles]
Spiders, bees or other insects [Insects]
A second bar chart shows the results for Afraid. The five most common fears are Reptiles (19.3.%), Public speaking (16.6%), Heights (16.1%), Insects (16.0%) and Water (13.0%)
A third bar chart shows the results for the sum of Very Afraid and Afraid, which is what was in the full list from Chapman. The five most common fears are Reptiles (33.0%), Public speaking (28.4%), Heights (27.4%), Insects (25.5%) and Water (21.0%). The 2001 and 1998 Gallup polls also had snakes first and public speaking second.
A fourth bar chart shows the results for Slightly Afraid. The five most common fears shift and now are Germs (36.9%), Public speaking (33.6%), Insects (33.4%), Reptiles (31.8.%), and Heights (30.9%).
For completeness a sixth bar chart shows the results for Not Afraid. The five least common fears are Reptiles (35.1%), Public speaking (38.0%), Insects (41.1%), Heights (41.7%), and Germs (46.6%). About 4 out of 5 people are not afraid of either clowns (83.0%) or zombies (82.6%) - which is why zombies show up as the subjects for movies and TV shows.
My only beef with this year’s Chapman press release is their misleading title - What Americans Fear Most - Chapman University’s second annual Survey of American Fears released. Actually it’s what the most Americans fear. And just like last year, journalists at TIME and the Daily Mail reflexively copied that incorrect description.
The Halloweeny image of a Haunted House (of Representatives) came from the Library of Congress.