Come Halloween there’s usually one question that’s top of mind: Trick or treat? But each year the devoted researchers at Chapman University dig deeper than that when they set out to discover what really haunts people’s night-scapes and what sorts of things make us afraid of what may be lurking in the closet, hiding under the bed, or breathing (heavily) at the other end of the ringing telephone line?
It turns out, according to the annual Survey of American Fears, the real Cucuy for most Americans for the fourth year running, is the fear of corrupt government officials. Out of 94 categories, including the fear of dying (which comes in at 54) or a significant other cheating in a relationship (83 on the list), nearly three-quarters of the country — 73.6 percent — reported they are “afraid or very afraid” of dishonesty or wrongdoing by government officials.
It appears we have grown more fearful as a nation. And, more of us agree on what we find terrifying.
This is the first year, since 2013 when the survey launched, that each of the top 10 fears are held by more than half of the population, indicating that overall fear is on the rise.
New this year, is the growing gnawing feeling that the planet is degenerating. In fact, half of the top 10 phenomena giving us collective goosebumps are related to pollution, global warming and other environmental disasters.
According to the survey Americans have grown less afraid of terrorist attacks — the number two fear in 2016 — and have replaced it with angst over the pollution of oceans, rivers and lakes. A sinking fear shared by nearly 62 percent of the population. A close third, at least for those not living in Detroit, for whom this would understandably be of greater concern, is the dread of drinking water pollution.
At numbers seven, eight and nine are stresses over air pollution, the extinction of plant and animal species and global warming and climate change.
Americans are also preoccupied with financial worries. Fifty seven percent are frightened of not having enough money for the future, making it the fourth greatest concern on people’s minds. And, 53 percent have a considerable fear of high medical bills, making it the 10th most prominent terror in day-to-day life.
The specter of loved ones becoming seriously ill — number 5 — is nearly equal to the fear of them dying — number 6.
With regard to paranormal phobias, more people are afraid of whites no longer being the majority in the U.S. (9.4 percent), than they are of Zombies (8.4 percent) and Ghosts (8.3 percent). And those horrors are greater than the fear of sexual harassment in the workplace and the pain of others talking about them behind their back, which come in at numbers 89 and 92 respectively.