The only thing to fear is fear itself and our politicians.
Just in time for Halloween and Election Day, Chapman University in California, released its third annual Survey of American Fears. The survey breaks down fear into “domains.” There are 11: crime, economic, environment, government, illness and death, demographic changes, man-made disasters, natural disasters, personal fears, relationships and technology. Oh, my.
Among the top 10, “government” appears three times, including in the top spot, “Corrupt government officials.” Sadly, this is the No. 1 fear of more than 60 percent of the Americans surveyed. Greater than terrorism and not having enough money for the future, No. 2 and 3 respectively, we fear the corruption of our leaders, who have a hand in shaping many of our subsequent fears. Crime, death, and illness are predictably also in the top 10. In the domain of personal fears, reptiles claim the top spot, with more than 33 percent owning up to herpetophobia. Public speaking is No. 2, followed by deep lakes and oceans, small enclosed spaces, needles, germs, flying, blood, and animals. Amazingly, almost 10 percent of those surveyed admitted to being afraid of zombies, strangers, ghosts and clowns (In fairness, the survey was conducted in April before a rash of mysterious “clown sightings.” Fear of clowns might claim a higher spot next year.) Oddly, all of these outrank anything in the “relationship” domain. Dozens of other fears, including “technology I don’t understand,” far out-rank “significant other cheating on you,” although it is perhaps the most likely fear on the list to actually happen. Recent statistics show both men and women have cheated on their partners in about half of all relationships.
What does all this mean? Much worse than encountering Bozo in the woods on a dark night, we fear having to crawl into that small space called a voting booth to cast a vote for a politician, who we fear might be corrupt, but who somehow impresses us by having mastered one of our greatest personal discomforts, public speaking. We’ll return home — more fearful that a stalker (17 percent) might be waiting for us than an unfaithful lover — and wait for the election results, which will more than likely influence next year’s Survey of American Fears, along with a cult revival of Snakes on a Plane.