Monday, February 2, 2009

U.S. residents are slightly more afraid of public speaking than of hell or fire

Several years ago Discovery Health Channel had a poll done on the extreme fears (or phobias) of Americans. The results are no longer on their web site, although they were mentioned as existing in a press release back in 2000.

I found some of them in a newspaper article titled The Top Ten Extreme Fears buried in the web archive of the Tech Collegian from the West Virginia University Institute of Technology (page 5 of the October 2, 2002 issue). If these extreme fears results were indeed from the 2000 poll, then they were from a telephone survey of 1,000 people done between August 22 and 28, 2000 by Penn, Schoen, & Berland Associates, Inc. of Washington, DC.

Women and men have different percents for these extreme fears, so I have first listed the pooled results for people (one tie), and then separate results for women (with two tie results) and men. Snakes, heights, and being buried alive all outrank public speaking, and drowning outranks or ties. (For comparison I also have listed some results from a 2001 Gallup poll). Detailed results are as follows:

Top nine extreme fears for people (one tie)

1. 25% Snakes (Gallup 51%)

2. 22% Being buried alive

3. 17% Heights (Gallup 36%)

4. 15% Being bound or tied up

5. 14% Drowning

6. 13% Speaking in public (Gallup 40%)

7. 12% Hell

8. 11% Cancer

9. 10% Fire, & Tornados and hurricanes

Top eight extreme fears for women (two ties!)

1. 35% Snakes (Gallup 62%)

2. 27% Being bound or tied up

3. 25% Being buried alive

4. 19% Heights (Gallup 41%)

5. 17% Drowning & Speaking in public (Gallup 44%)

6. 16% Tornados and hurricanes

7. 15% Hell & Fire

8. 13% Cancer

Top ten extreme fears for men

1. 20% Being buried alive

2. 14% Heights (Gallup 31%)

3. 13% Snakes (Gallup 38%)

4. 11% Drowning

5. 9% Speaking in public (Gallup 37%)

6. 8% Cancer

7. 7% Hell

8. 5% Tornados and hurricanes

9. 4% Fire

10. 2% Being bound or tied up

In the above lists I also have included the percentages for the same three categories (snakes, heights, and public speaking) found in the Gallup Poll done in February and reported on Mach 19, 2001. That poll asked about fear rather than extreme fear (or phobia), and thus got much higher percentages than the Discovery Health Channel did.

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