Life

This Study Of Fear In 2017 Reveals What Really Scares Americans


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Fear’s a funny thing. It can often be subjective and situational. Some fears tend to change as we grow and learn. Others are hardwired into our brains. We all know clowns aren’t killer aliens with a desire to feast on our childlike souls. But, that reasoning is hard to maintain when there’s a killer clown standing off in the distance, looking hungry. What we’re saying is that there are some very common fears we all have — how else do you explain It making all the money?

Researchers at Chapman University set themselves a goal back in 2014. It was a more innocent time, before white supremacists and nationalists felt safe carrying torches through towns. Researchers Christopher Bader, Edward Day, and Ann Gordon started what they called the ‘Fear Survey.’ They queried 1,500 Americans across the country with the goal to find out whether the average American understood that crime rates had fallen dramatically over the past 20 years. They asked very broad questions about each participant’s’ news habits and what they knew about basic science before diving into a specifics about what they feared.

At number one, 56 percent of Americans answered that they feared walking home alone at night and 50 percent feared to ask strangers for help — proving, that Americans were still afraid of crime.

The research carried on every year with the focus naturally shifting. Last year the top five fears Americans had were, in order, corrupt government officials (60.6 percent), terrorist Attack (41 percent), not having enough money for the future (39.9 percent), terrorism (38.5 percent), government restrictions on firearms and ammunition (also 38.5 percent).

This year, while the number one fear for Americans has remained the same, the respondents with that fear jumped to 74.5 percent. Which means a lot more Americans fear our corrupt government. The rest of the top five were pretty much completely different with fears overall on the rise.

The rest of the top five in 2016 were 40 percent or lower, this year they were all above 50 percent: American Healthcare Act/Trumpcare (55.3 percent), pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes (53.1 percent), pollution of drinking Water (50.4 percent), and not having enough money for the future (jumping to 50.2 percent).

Fear of high medical bills, American being in another world war, global warming and climate change, nuclear war with North Korea, and air pollution rounded out our top ten fears. Last year people were still worried about loved ones dying and identity theft in the top ten — now it’s freaking nuclear holocaust. Who knows why (everyone, everyone knows why).

The researchers at Chapman fully admit that current events have a huge sway on people’s attention spans and what’s currently on their minds. That being said, the report is still troubling.

“This year we saw some big changes. Fear has really gone up,” researcher Edward Day reports. “Prior to this year, there was only one item where the majority of Americans said they were afraid or very afraid, and this year there were five.”

Fact: We’re more afraid, as a culture. And it doesn’t really feel unmerited.

Just for comparison’s sake, fear of terrorism fell to 22nd place and fear of the government restricting guns fell to 23rd (clowns clocked in at 76th place, by the way). The crazy part is that basically the same number of people claimed that they were afraid of both of those things happening as did back in 2016. There’s just so much more to fear now that items that were fourth and fifth last year don’t even make the top 20 this year.

#WhatATimeToBeAlive?

(Via The Smithsonian.com)

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