Just in time for Halloween, Wilkinson College Undergraduate Research Fellows in the Henley Lab and Babbie Center have completed research papers based on their participation in the Study of American Fears. Among those, Americans’ Top Fears, Fear of COVID-19 in America, and Fear of Civil Unrest.

Students are involved in every aspect of the survey, from researching new content areas, to writing questions and analyzing results. They also analyzed data from the most recent fear survey to focus on interests of their own.

“The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 7 (2020/2021) allows us to examine and better understand the fears of average Americans. In January of 2021, a random sample of 1,035 adults across the United States was asked about ninety-five different fears ranging from topics about the environment, government, natural disasters, COVID-19, and many more! Leading the list of fears, Corrupted Government Officials,” wrote Roxy Amirazizi (‘22, Political Science and Philosophy, Major, Honors Program) in her paper on Americans’ Top Fears. Amirazizi also wrote a second paper, “Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy in American 2020-2021.”

Photo by: Clay Banks, Unsplash.

Christian Grevin (‘22, Political Science and History, Major, Environmental Studies, Minor) focused on fear of civil unrest. Fear of widespread civil unrest has generally increased since it was first researched in the Chapman University Survey of American Fears (CSAF) in 2015. In the 2018 survey, it ranked only as the 24th fear and then moved up to the 20th spot in the 2019 survey. However, for the first time fear of widespread civil unrest landed in the top 5 fears of Americans,” he noted.

Fear of COVID-19 in America 2020-2021 was explored by Markos Buhler (‘23, Political Science and Economics, Major, Spanish, Minor).  He explained that “the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health of millions across the globe and uprooted ordinary life for everyone. At this point in the United States, a majority of people know someone who has or has had the coronavirus. According to the 2020/2021 Chapman University Survey of American Fears (CSAF), 79.2% of respondents know someone personally who has had COVID-19, while 7.9% of all respondents reported they themselves have had COVID-19.

In addition to the fear research, the team of students worked on other projects, such as wildfire messaging, to the impact of the earthquake in Haiti.

“The team analyzed data for our ongoing collaboration with the National Weather Service, Oxnard/Los Angeles on our project to improve public safety messages for wildfires and debris flows,” said Dr. Ann Gordon, Director of Babbie and Henley Centers. “The development of more effective messages can help save lives and protect livelihoods. Working on real-world problems like this is a high impact practice that builds students’ critical thinking abilities and intellectual independence. It also has a positive impact on the community by making us all safer.”

7.2 Haiti earthquake 2021.

Students that conducted research on the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti in August analyzed videos from Haiti to investigate the earthquake’s impact. The data is shared among other university researchers and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The finished dataset will be publicly available for future researchers to use.

One member of the research team who graduated, Paige Goedderz (’21 Sociology major; Spanish minor), worked over the summer to wrap-up her ongoing research before heading to law school. Reflecting on the importance of the Henley Lab to her education, Paige said, “The Henley Research Lab has truly been the leading opportunity of my undergraduate experience without a doubt. I was able to meet so many amazing scholars and faculty, research pertinent social issues, apply my academic studies to real life, assist my peers in their studies, and improve my public speaking skills when presenting findings at conferences.”

“Work done in the Henley Lab is very interdisciplinary. For example, Sarah Kashani (’22) is a political science, business and honors student. She worked on a project related to changing demographics in America and related fears. She is now assisting Dr. Nancy Rios-Contreras of the Sociology Department on research about the Black Lives Matter Movement,” said Dr. Gordon.

“It was an honor to be a part of the Fear Survey this year, especially given the unprecedented times,” said Amirazizi. “Getting to compose questions and receive recent, updated data that are so relevant and crucial was a privilege. By asking questions about COVID, vaccine hesitancy, Black Lives Matter, and trust in government, all the while the country was battling those issues, we were able to pinpoint specific issues and fears that we felt was important for Americans to know about.”