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Polling results:

The top most common fears of U.S adults.
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The Chapman University in Orange, CA conducts an annual Survey of American Fears to detect the most common, but not necessarily the most intense fears, among U.S. adults. 1 They reported the results from their fourth poll on 2017-OCT-11.

They obtained a random selection of about 1,200 U.S. adults. They asked them about 80 possible different fears dealing with government, the environment, terrorism, health, natural disasters, personal finances, public speaking, spiders, heights, ghosts, etc. In their 2017 poll, they added a new category: fear of extremism.

The margin of error are of the polling result's are: ~+mn~ 2.8 percentage points.

Survey results:

The ten most common fears are:
  1. 74%: Corruption among government officials. This was also the top fear during previous years, 2016 and 2015.

  2. 55%: Health care. (This was not a Top Ten fear in previous polls.)

  3. 53%: Pollution in water (oceans, rivers, lakes; also not seen in prior Top Ten polls.)

  4. 50%: Pollution in drinking water (also not seen in prior Top Ten polls.)

  5. 50%: Not having enough money in the future.

  6. 48%: High medical bills.

  7. 48%: The U.S. will be involved in another world war.

  8. 48%: Global warming/Climate change.

  9. 48%: North Korea using nuclear weapons (also not seen in prior Top Ten polls.)

  10. 45%: Air pollution.

Note that the above list refers to the frequency, not necessarily, the seriousness, of fears.

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  • Environmental fears related to pollution and climate change comprised four of the most common ten fears. However, between the years 2009 and 2017, a significant percentage of Americans -- 10 to 23% -- have believed that gloabal warming is not actually happening. Many consider it a hoax. Among them is President Trump himself who has said that the hoax was started by the Chinese government to damage U.S. business. Some attribute research findings to measurement errors, or to fraud by the scientists involved. Still others feel that the influence that humans have on the world is miniscule and thus we cannot change the climate.

    If belief in the existence of climate change increases in the future, then the fear of adverse changes in the environment will probably rise to become the second most common fear.

    Surveys of scientific papers on climate change show that 97% or more of climate scientists who actively publish information on the topic agree that it is happening and that it is iatrogenic -- caused primarily by human activity. Statements on the validity of climate change have been issued by 18 scientific associations, including:

    • American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    • American Chemical Society

    • American Geophysical Union

    • American Medical Association

    • American Meteorological Society

    • American Physical Society

    • The Geological Society of America

    • U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    • The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  • Among adults who vote Democrat and Independent, belief in the reality of climate change is quite high. One study shows in excess of 70% of them regard it as a real effect. Democratic candidates for public office might benefit if they chose to stress this topic during their political campaigns.

  • Among those voting Republican, the percentage is much lower -- on the order of 30%. Republican candidates might benefit from minimizing discussion of this topic during their campaigns. 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sheri Ledbetter, "What do Americans fear most?," Chapman University Press Room, 2017-OCT-11, at:
  2. Lawrence Hamilton, et al., "Tracking Public Beliefs About Anthropogenic Climate Change" Public Library of Science (PLOS), 2015-SEP-30, at:

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Copyright Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Created on 2018-FEB-15

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