Sunday, October 29, 2017

What do Americans fear most? Fear Scores from the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears

In the 2017 Chapman Survey on American Fears 1,207 adults were asked 81 questions that began with:

“How afraid are you of the following?”

They were asked to choose from one of four answers (fear levels):

1] Not Afraid

2] Slightly Afraid

3] Afraid

4] Very Afraid

(There also was a Blank category for the less than 1% who didn’t answer a question).

In the Chapman blog post about the survey on October 11 titled America’s Top Fears 2017 there was a Complete List of Fears ranked by the sum of the percentages for Afraid and Very Afraid (and also shown alphabetically). The most common fear was Corrupt (federal) government officials (74.5%). But the press release on that same day was incorrectly titled What Do Americans Fear Most? It instead should have said What Do the Most Americans Fear? Sadly many others have copied that incorrect description.  

In my previous post on October 26, 2017 titled 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 I showed a series of six bar charts ranking the percentages.


Where was that fear score for Corrupt government officials? Was it way up near 4.0, and enough to make us Scream like that man in the famous painting by Edward Munch? A fear score can be calculated from the answers for each question in the Survey Methodology Report. The formula simply is a weighted average of the proportions:

Fear Score = [ 1x(% for Not Afraid) +  2x(% for Slightly Afraid)
 + 3x(% for Afraid) + 4x(% for Very Afraid)]/100  

I discussed Fear Scores in an October 30, 2015 blog post titled According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal Government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. All the Fear Scores are shown above in a horizontal bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view).

For 2017 the Fear Score for Corrupt government officials was 3.118, or somewhat above Afraid (3.0) In 2016 it was 2.678.

For Public speaking the Fear Score is 1.909, or not even Slightly Afraid The very lowest Fear Score for Your significant other cheating on you was only 1.048.  

Those fear scores cover a range of 2.07 out of a possible 3.0, or 69% - not much over 2/3 the total. Things still could get even worse. Stay tuned for next year. 


How do rankings based on Fear Score and the Sum of percentages for [Very Afraid + Afraid] from my previous post compare? As shown above in a table, sometimes they are very similar – within one or two places. But other times, like for Global warming and climate change (17 vs. 10) and Extinction of plant and animal species (18 vs. 11) they differ by seven.  

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