Through a complex series of analyses, we were able to determine what types of people tend to fear certain things (crime vs. natural disasters vs. the government, etc.) and what personal characteristics tend to be associated with the most types of fear.

We looked at a number of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Work Status
  • Education
  • Income
  • Region of the country
  • Urban/Rural
  • Political Preference
  • Religion
  • TV Watching
  • Gun ownership

Key Fear Factors-01

Key Fear Factors

A Low Education

Having a lower level of education, particularly having only a high school diploma/GED or less, was the most consistent predictor of fear. People with lower levels of education exhibit significantly higher levels of fear regarding:

    • Personal safety
    • Their future (running out of money, getting sick, etc)
    • Internet usage (identity theft, being stalked, etc)
    • Criminal victimization
    • Phobias (heights, clowns, blood, etc)
    • Government (Obamacare, gun control, etc)
    • Immigration (immigrants cause crime, bring disease, etc)
    • Natural Disasters (asteroid, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc)
    • Man-made disasters (wars, terrorist attacks, etc)

Talk TV

Watching television talk shows with frequency proved to be strongly related to fear. It is a simple, straight-line effect – the more one watches talk TV, the more fearful one tends to be. Given the nature of our survey we cannot say with certainty whether people turn to talk TV because they are afraid or whether people have become afraid from watching talk TV, but the association is clear and powerful.

    • Personal safety
    • Their future (running out of money, getting sick, etc)
    • Internet usage (identity theft, being stalked, etc)
    • Criminal victimization
    • Phobias (heights, clowns, blood, etc)
    • Natural Disasters (asteroid, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc)
    • Man-made disasters (wars, terrorist attacks, etc)

True Crime TV

Television has become inundated with true crime television shows, ranging from popular prime-time programs such as Dateline NBC and 20/20 to entire networks devoted to programming about crime and criminals. The more one watches true crime TV, the higher the levels of fear of:

    • The future (running out of money, getting sick, etc)
    • Internet usage (identity theft, being stalked, etc)
    • Criminal victimization
    • Fears about today’s youth
    • Phobias (heights, clowns, blood, etc)
    • Natural Disasters (asteroid, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc)
    • Man-made disasters (wars, terrorist attacks, etc)

Other Fear Factors

The following list rounds out our top ten personal characteristics that tend to be associated with holding many fears.

Personal Characteristic Higher Levels of Fear about
Disabled as work status Criminal victimization, pollution, natural disasters, man-made disasters
“Other” race/ethnic groups (not white or black) Internet usage, phobias, natural disasters, man-made disasters
Females Personal safety, criminal victimization, phobias
Republicans Fears about today’s youth, the government & immigrants
Democrats Personal safety, pollution & man-made disasters
Religion (except Jewish) Fears about today’s youth, the government & man-made disasters
Watching TV (in general) Fears about one’s future, phobias & man-made disasters
Retired as work status Personal safety, fears about one’s future, phobias