What Are Americans Most Afraid Of In 2018?


It is only 12 days until Halloween and Chapman University has published a survey exposing the horrors keeping America up at night. It's not vampires, werewolves, and ghouls but unaffordable medical care and water pollution that has been on people's minds lately.

For the Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018), researchers asked a random sample of 1,190 adults from across the country to rate their level of fear on 94 separate items, from "public speaking" to "nuclear meltdown". Here are the top 10:

  1. 1. Corrupt government officials – 73.6 percent afraid or very afraid (same as 2015, 2016, and 2017)

  2. 2. Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes – 61.6 percent afraid or very afraid (up one place)

  3. 3. Pollution of drinking water – 60.7 percent afraid or very afraid (up one place)

  4. 4. Not having enough money for the future – 57 percent afraid or very afraid (up one place)

  5. 5. People I love becoming seriously ill – 56.5 percent afraid or very afraid (new entry)

  6. 6. People I love dying – 56.4 percent afraid or very afraid (new entry)

  7. 7. Air pollution – 55.1 percent afraid or very afraid (up three places)

  8. 8. Extinction of plant and animal species – 54.1 percent afraid or very afraid (new entry)

  9. 9. Global warming and climate change – 53.2 percent afraid or very afraid (down one place)

  10. 10. High medical bills – 52.9 percent afraid or very afraid (down four places)

Topping the list (for the fourth year in a row) was "corrupt government officials" with 73.6 percent of the adults surveyed reporting they are either afraid or very afraid of unscrupulous and fraudulent politicians. Overall levels of concern dropped slightly from last year (74.5 percent) but have jumped quite significantly from 2016 (60.6 percent) – we wonder if a certain election played a part.

A major theme of this year's list is concern for the planet. In 2016, not one of the top 10 fears related to climate change or pollution but that changed last year when four out of 10 were to do with the environment. In the most recent survey, half of all top 10 fears were environmental, including "pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes" (61.6 percent), "extinction of plant and animal species" (54.1 percent), and "global warming and climate change" (53.2 percent).

Also making the top 10 were concerns about finances and terrible things happening to people we care about. Fifty-seven percent of people reported being afraid or very afraid of "not having enough money for the future" and 56.5 percent of "people I love becoming seriously ill". Meanwhile, fears that made the top 10 last year but not this year include "American Healthcare Act/Trumpcare", "The US will be involved in another world war", and "North Korea using weapons". 

Another trend the researchers noted was an increase in fear more generally. In 2016, all but two of the top 10 fears were under 40 percent with "The Affordable Health Care Act/Obamacare" at number 10 on 35.5 percent. This year, all 10 fears were held by more than half of the people surveyed. 


So, what about some of the phenomena that didn't make the top 10? The researchers found that 38.6 percent of Americans are afraid of a pandemic spreading, 49.3 are nervous of white supremacists, and 33.6 can't stand heights.

Meanwhile, zombies (8.4 percent), ghosts (8.3 percent), and clowns (7.1 percent) were at the very bottom of the list. Perhaps it's time our Halloween costumes had a 2018 update


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