For the second year in a row, “corruption in government officials” is what Americans fear most, according to the third annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears, with terrorism, poverty and gun control included in the top five.
Fear of corruption was followed by “terrorist attack,” and “not having enough money for the future.” “Terrorism,” defined as being personally affected by a specific attack, and “government restrictions on firearms and ammunition,” tied for fourth place. “Clowns,” a buzzed-about topic this year, ranked second to last on the list.
The study is based on the results of an April 2016 sampling of 1,511 adults across the US who were asked about their levels of fear regarding 79 scenarios including crime, government action and attitude, economic and environmental disasters, personal worries, including relationship problems and loss, technology and other topics, Chapman University explains in its report. Participants ranked their responses in four steps from “very afraid” to “not afraid.”
Over 60% of respondents said they were “afraid” or “very afraid” of corrupt government officials, 41% of a terrorist attack, 39.9% of not having enough money for the future and 38.5% of both terrorism and government gun control. Rounding out the top 10 fears were “people I love dying,” “economic or financial collapse,” “identity theft,” “people I love becoming seriously ill,” and “the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare,” which 35.5% of respondents reported being afraid of. The survey revealed a society riddled with distrust of individuals and fears of being hoodwinked or misled. “Three really striking findings came to the fore in the current wave of [the survey],” Chapman University Sociology Professor Christopher Bader explained in a video about the findings on the university’s website. “First, we found that Americans have a high tendency toward belief in conspiracy theories. We also found that Americans have a very pronounced fear of Muslims and Islam as a religion. And finally, we found that Americans don’t quite know what to do when it comes to reporting possible terrorist activity.” Americans love their “conspiracy theories.” The “vast majority” of respondents believed in at least one of nine common conspiracy theories presented to them, with people most likely to agree that the government is hiding information about the 9/11 attacks, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and alien activity. Roughly half of respondents believed in some kind of 9/11 or JFK assassination cover-up and 42.6% in hidden alien activity. More than 42% think there’s something fishy about global warming. “The United States is a very paranoid society, but conspiracy theories are more common and more popular at times of social upheaval,” Bader said.