Back in 1933, while our country was mired in the economic collapse we call the Great Depression, Franklin D Roosevelt famously asserted, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Eight decades later, while the economy still ranks among our top 10 fears, it’s the government that has us most fearful. Here’s a look at the 10 things Americans worry about the most.
Beyond fear itself
In late 2015, California’s Chapman University completed its second annual Survey of American Fears. Each wave of the survey focused on what Americans fear, the potential causes of those fears, and the consequences of fear. In addition, the comprehensive survey included extensive background information about respondents, allowing for examinations of how fears vary by different groups.
The survey asked respondents about 88 fears across a broad range of categories — including fears about the government, crime, the environment, the future, technology, aging, sickness and health; natural and man-made disasters, claustrophobia, clowns and many other personal anxieties; as well as a host of other concerns.
The second annual survey included more than 1,500 adult participants from across the nation and all walks of life. The 2015 survey data is organized into five basic categories: personal fears, acting out of fear, natural disasters, paranormal fears, and domains of fear.
What Americans fear most in 2015
The latest survey shows that the top 10 things Americans fear the most are…
- Corruption of government officials
- Corporate tracking of personal information
- Terrorist attacks
- Government tracking of personal information
- Identity theft
- Economic collapse
- Running out of money in the future
- Credit card fraud
“The 2015 survey data shows us the top fears are heavily based in economic and ‘big brother’ type issues,” said Christopher Bader, PhD, who led the team effort. “People often fear what they cannot control,” Dr Bader says, “and technology and the future of our economy are two aspects of life that Americans find very unpredictable at the moment.
Acting out of fear
Acting out of fear was a new element to the 2015 survey. The researchers asked respondents if they had engaged in particular actions because of their fears.
What they learned is nearly a fourth of Americans report having voted for a particular candidate due to their fears; and more than 10 percent have purchased a gun due to fear. Other behaviors driven by fear are sending kids to private schools and purchasing a home alarm system.
“Fear of the government had the strongest relationship with buying a gun because of fear,” said L Edward Day, PhD, and lead researcher on this portion of the survey. “People who have purchased a gun because of fear also have high levels of fear of technology and crime.”
Domains of fear
The research team leading this effort pared the information down into 10 major “domains” of fear, which encapsulates the entirety of the 88 individual fears the survey addressed. On average, Americans’ fears lay highest in the domains of man-made disasters, such as terrorist attacks, followed by technology and then the government — such as corruption and Obamacare.
The top 10 fears