Thursday, October 26, 2017

How can you make a public speaking coach run away like a scared zebra? Just tell them where fear of public speaking ranked in the fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears.



























This year it ranked #52 out of 80 fears. Last year it ranked #33 out of 79 fears, and in 2015 it ranked #26 of 89 fears.

Why wasn’t it first out of 12 fears, like for the 2014 survey, as was reported in an extremely popular Washington Post blog post titled America’s top fears: Public speaking, heights and bugs. In that first survey questions about fears weren’t asked in a consistent way, so you couldn’t really compare them all. But this year they didn’t divide the fears into domains, so you can’t spin them as I discussed in a June 25, 2016 blog post titled How could you spin the results of a fear survey where public speaking wasn’t even in the top 5, 10, or 20?

I find it extremely curious that Toastmasters International has never mentioned the Chapman Surveys in its monthly Toastmaster magazine, although its headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita is located only about 20 miles from that university (in Orange, California). Their last discussion of fear statistics was an article which I blogged about in a post on December 11, 2013 titled Spouting Nonsense: July 2013 Toastmaster magazine article fumbles fears and phobias. There also is an old Toastmasters press release titled Teaching People to Talk Turkey Without Turning Chicken.   
   
On October 11th Chapman University released results from their fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears with a press release mistitled What do Americans fear most? and a blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2017. Their overall web page provided a link to an Acrobat .pdf file with details for the survey methodology and results. I blogged about it on October 14, 2017 in a post titled What do the most Americans fear? The fourth Chapman Survey on American Fears, and being innumerate.

A commercial polling firm, SSRS, had surveyed 1207 American adults from June 28 to July 7, 2017. In their main survey each was asked around eighty questions with the general form:

“How afraid are you of the following…:”


and with multiple-choice replies of

“Blank (skipped answering this question)

Not Afraid

Very Afraid

Afraid

Slightly Afraid”

Data processed by the university for their blog post apparently was blank corrected (rescaled) to correct their results in percent by multiplying by a factor of (100/(100 – Blank percent). The list of fears in the blog post reportedly was ranked by the sum of the percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid. So they actually reported what most Americans fear and NOT what Americans fear most.

 When I compared the list of fears in the blog post with percentage results in the .pdf file, I found lots of discrepancies larger than what could be explained as rounding errors of plus or minus 0.1%. The worst discrepancy was for Cyber-terrorism which was listed as 39.1% and ranked nineteenth but really was 47.9% and should have been ranked tenth. There actually also were 81 fears rather than the 80 shown in the blog post, and the 81st fittingly was that of Being fooled by ‘fake’ news. I made my own list for the sum of the percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid.


























Have results for the fear of public speaking changed much over the past four years? Not really. As shown above in a table, the results have been rather similar. From 2014 to 2017 the Chapman Survey rank (by the sum of percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid) went from 25.3% in 2014 to 27.5% in 2015 to 25.5% in 2016 to 23.3% in 2017. The grand sum for Very Afraid, Afraid, and Slightly Afraid went from 61.9% in 2014 to 60.0% in 2015 to 60.2% in 2016 to 57.9% in 2017.    



























How about results over the past four years for the fear of corrupt government officials? As shown above in another table, those results changed. From 2015 to 2016 the Chapman Survey percentage for Very Afraid plus Afraid increased by just 2.8% from 56.1% to 58.9%. But then from 2016 to 2017 it went up by almost 15% (14.9%) to 73.8%. The grand sum for Very Afraid, Afraid, and Slightly Afraid went up from 78.5% in 2015 to 82.8% in 2016 and to 92.3% in 2017. (In 2014 people were asked about being worried rather than fearful).    

For this post I entered the percentage data into an Excel spreadsheet, and prepared a series of bar charts listing all the fears, similar to what I had done last year for the Top 40 fears in my October 14, 2016 blog post titled In the 2016 Chapman Survey of American Fears public speaking was ranked 33rd out of 79 fears. This time I didn’t bother with blank correcting (rescaling) to correct results in percent by multiplying by a factor of (100/(100 – Blank percent).

























The first bar chart shows results for the sum of percentages for Very Afraid and Afraid, as used in the Chapman blog post. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 49th):
Corrupt government officials 73.8%
The American Healthcare Act, also called Trumpcare 55.4%
Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes 54.0%
Pollution of drinking water 52.5%
Not having enough money for the future 51.3%
High medical bills 49.2%
The U.S. will be involved in another World War 48.3%
North Korea using nuclear weapons 48.3%
Cyber-terrorism 47.8%
Global warming and climate change 46.7%.

























A second bar chart shows results for the sum of percentages for all fears (Very Afraid, Afraid, and Slightly Afraid), which yields the largest and most impressive numbers. The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 40th):
Corrupt government officials 92.3%
Identity theft 83.5%
Cyber-terrorism 83.3%
Economic/financial collapse 83.0%
The U.S. will be involved in another World War 82.8%
Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes 82.0%
Pollution of drinking water 81.6%
North Korea using nuclear weapons 81.3%
Not having enough money for the future 80.7%
Terrorist attack 80.3%

























A third bar chart shows percentage results for Very Afraid. The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 47th):
Corrupt government officials 46.2%
The American Healthcare Act, also called Trumpcare 37.8%
Not having enough money for the future 28.4%
High medical bills 26.0%
Pollution of drinking water 25.7%
Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes 24.1%
Global warming and climate change 23.7%.
The U.S. will be involved in another World War 22.5%
People I love dying 22.1%
North Korea using nuclear weapons 21.9%

























A fourth bar chart shows percentage results for Afraid. The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 54th):
Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes 29.9%
Cyber-terrorism 29.1%
Identity theft 28.6%
Credit card fraud 28.5%
Corrupt government officials 27.6%
Economic/financial collapse 27.3%
Pollution of drinking water 26.8%
Widespread civil unrest 26.6%
North Korea using nuclear weapons 26.4%
The U.S. will be involved in another World War 25.8%

























A fifth bar chart shows percentage results for Slightly Afraid. The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 24th):
Break-ins 44.6%
Theft of property 43.4%
Being hit by a drunk driver 40.9%
Becoming seriously ill 40.8%
Identity theft 39.0%
Economic/financial collapse 38.5%
People I love becoming seriously ill 38.4%
Losing my data, photos, or important documents in a disaster 37.8%
Pandemic or major epidemic 37.5%
Heights 37.1%

























A sixth bar chart shows percentage results for Not Afraid. This is complementary to the second chart of the sum of percentages for all fears (Very Afraid, Afraid, and Slightly Afraid). The Top Ten most common fears are (public speaking was 42nd):
Zombies 88.2%
Clowns 83.9%
Ghosts 82.7%
Blood 78.2%
Others talking about you behind your back 77.8%
Whites no longer being the majority in the U.S. 75.4%
Murder by someone you know 73.6%
Sexual assault by someone you know 72.7%
Animals (dogs, rats, etc.) 68.8%
Needles 68.3%

The image was modified from this one of two Cape Mountain Zebras running away at Wikimedia Commons.

2 comments:

Rich Haslam said...

I like how extensive the survey is of AMERICAN fears but please tone down your criticism of Toastmasters which is an INTERNATIONAL organization with members in 141 countries. When your survey is conducted world wide then we will get a better representation of exactly what people fear in the world, and not just a very small 6% of the world population.

Marti MacEwan said...

This survey mixes 'fears', as in ongoing serious worries/concerns related to world affairs or dangers of our times, with 'fears', as in acute and personal phobias, to which 'fear of public speaking' has been more appropriately compared in the past.

If you pose the idea of my family being threatened with nuclear war, corrupt government, terrorism, global warming, etc., of course I will report these are more concerning than my, perhaps even debilitating, fear of public speaking.

Apples and oranges, and the comparisons not meaningful.

Stage fright and fear of public speaking are real and serious for those they affect and very common.