The way Americans see it, the bogeyman is not hiding under the bed. The real monsters are in the halls of government across the land, according to the second annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears, released in October.
Corruption of government officials topped the survey’s list of the 10 things Americans fear most.
Close on the heels is cyber-terrorism and corporate tracking of personal information. Those top three fears are connected in a kind of handwringing trifecta, said Christopher Bader, Ph.D., who leads the Team Fear research effort at Chapman.
“Top fears are heavily based in economic and Big Brother type issues,” Bader said. “People often fear what they cannot control, and technology and the future of our economy are two aspects of life that Americans find very unpredictable at the moment.” The survey digs deep into Americans’ fears and their potential causes as well as the consequences on daily life.
More than 1,500 adults were asked about 88 fears across a broad range of categories, including crime, the environment, the future, technology, aging, sickness and health, natural and man-made disasters, claustrophobia and clowns. Chapman undergraduate students contribute greatly to the development of survey questions.
The researchers say a key finding this year is that Americans need a “disaster reality check.” While more than half of respondents fear that they will experience a natural or man-made disaster — and a whopping 86 percent believe an emergency supply kit would improve their chances of survival — the vast majority have
made no effort to prepare such a kit because they expect that first responders will come to
In fact, the Red Cross warns that Americans may need to survive on their own for at least 72 hours.
Another provocative finding is that nearly one-fourth of Americans reported having voted for a particular candidate based on their fears about the government, and more than 15 percent of Americans have purchased a gun due to their fear of crime, noted Associate Professor Edward Day, Ph.D., one of the authors
of the survey.
Another finding compiled by Day, Bader and Professor Ann Gordon, Ph.D., shows that more than one fourth
of Americans believe that the living and dead can communicate with each other, and nearly one-fifth believe that dreams can foretell the future and that aliens have visited Earth in the ancient past.
As it did a year ago, the Chapman Survey of American Fears is generating considerable media attention. Last
year’s survey received coverage in 318 media outlets, and this year’s report is on track to surpass that figure.
See the full results of the survey at