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This New Study Reveals What Americans Fear Most

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Chapman University has just published a fascinating new study revealing the most common fears among Americans. In April of this year, 1,541 adults took part in the Survey of American Fears, Wave 2, and were asked to rank their level of fear about eighty-eight different topics from 1 (not afraid) to 4 (very afraid). The study categorized fears into 10 different domains, including crime, the government, judgment of others, man-made and natural disasters, and personal anxieties.

The study found that Americans are most afraid of man-made disasters, such as warfare and terrorist attacks, as well as technology, like artificial intelligence and cyber-terrorism. Judgment of others, based on factors such as appearance, age, or gender identity, ranked the lowest of the 10 categories. Here is the complete ranking of Domains by Fear:

Domain of Fear

Average Fear Score (out of 4)

Man-Made Disasters      

2.15

Technology

2.07

Government

2.06

Environment

1.97

Personal Future

1.95

Natural Disasters

1.95

Crime

1.72

Personal Anxieties

1.63

Daily Life

1.51

Judgment of Others

1.31

Of all of the eighty-eight fears respondents were asked about, the largest percentage (58%) of Americans expressed being “afraid” or “very afraid” of the corruption of government officials. Here’s the list of top ten fears most commonly had by Americans:

Fear

Fear Domain

% Afraid or Very Afraid

Corruption of Government Officials

Government

58.0%

Cyber-terrorism

Technology

44.8%

Corporate Tracking of Personal Information

Technology

44.6%

Terrorist Attacks

Man-Made Disasters

44.4%

Government Tracking of Personal Information   

Technology

41.4%

Bio-Warfare

Man-Made Disasters    

40.9%

Identity Theft

Crime

39.6%

Economic Collapse

Man-Made Disasters

39.2%

Running of out Money in the Future

Personal Future

37.4%

Credit Card Fraud

Crime

36.9%

It seems like there are some recurring themes of the greatest fears Americans have—many of them are government-related! Topics like natural disasters and personal anxieties tended to fall further down on the list (you can see the complete ranking of all eighty-eight fears here). It almosts sounds like people are more afraid (or mistrusting?) of each other than anything else. It’s fascinating how much a simple question like “what are you most afraid of?” can tell us about ourselves.


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