This Is What Americans Are Most Afraid Of In 2017


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

What are you most afraid of? Gwoeii/Shutterstock

Americans, like the rest of the world, are afraid of many things – and like many emotional responses, they aren’t always logical. Last year, one survey suggested that more Americans are afraid of clowns than they are of terrorist attacks, economic collapse, biological warfare, climate change, and even death itself.

This was just a single survey, though, and according to Chapman University’s fourth annual Survey of American Fears, the corruption of government officials is still the thing that people fear the most in the Home of the Brave.


This makes it the third year running that it tops the list, and – based on the news cycle in 2017 – the first year it’s probably dead on the money.

The team asked 1,207 adults from a range of demographics what they are most afraid of in their daily lives, with 80 different book-shaking terrors to choose from across four different categories: personal fears, natural disasters, paranormal fears, and the fear of extremism.

Here’s the top 10 list, for which respondents said they were “afraid” or “very afraid” of:

1 - Corruption of government officials (same top fear as 2015 and 2016) – 74 percent


2 - American Healthcare Act/Trumpcare (New entry for 2017) – 55 percent

3 - Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes (New in top 10) – 53 percent

4 - Pollution of drinking water (New in top 10) – 50 percent

5 - Not having enough money in the future – 50 percent


6 - High medical bills – 48 percent

7 - The US will be involved in another world war (New entry for 2017) – 48 percent

8 - Global warming and climate change – 48 percent

9 - North Korea using weapons (New entry for 2017) – 48 percent 


10 - Air pollution – 45 percent

Last year’s top 10 list was quite different, with terrorist attacks, “people I love dying,” and government restrictions on firearms all featuring.

Clearly, the new entries are directly related to the Trump administration’s behavior. Whether it’s nuclear war, direct threats to healthcare, or environmental degradation, the regressive hands of Trump et al loom large. One trend in particular, however, stands out from the rest.

“The 2017 survey data shows us that while some of the top fears have remained, there has also been a pronounced shift to environmental fears,” lead researcher Christopher Bader, professor of sociology at Chapman University, said in a statement


The team also highlights that plenty of Americans ecologically-focused fears can be traced to the reversal of the mitigation work carried out by the Obama administration.

For what it’s worth, in 2017, Americans were least afraid of clowns, blood, zombies, ghosts, and animals like dogs, cats and rats. The fact that 5 percent of Americans are afraid of zombies, though, does make you wonder. You can read the full list here


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