Corrupt Government Officials Remain Top Fear in 2022: Chapman Survey

Corrupt Government Officials Remain Top Fear in 2022: Chapman Survey
The Chapman University in Orange, Calif., is seen on Oct. 14, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jill McLaughlin

It might be spooky season but Americans are much more afraid of corruption, nuclear war, and money problems than ghosts and zombies, according to a survey by Chapman University released Oct. 14.

Topping the list again this year was the fear of corrupt government officials, according to the annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears, produced by the Earl Babbie Research Center at the college in Orange, California.

“Fear of corrupt government officials has remained the greatest fear for yet another year since first landing in the spot in 2015,” the university reported on its blog.

This fear, however, has dropped steeply from 79.6 percent in the 2020–2021 survey, to 62.1 percent this year, which is the lowest since 2016.

The top 10 fears this year also included harm to a loved one, war, environmental concerns, and economic concerns, according to the study.

Undergraduate research fellows surveyed 1,190 participants throughout the nation who were over 18.

Questions ranged from the fear of being a victim of mass shootings to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, immigration, and gun control.

Nuclear War Makes the List

The sociology project, now in its ninth year, included a question about Russia using nuclear weapons and found it landed as the third-most feared issue. About 60 percent of Americans reported being afraid of such as the war in Ukraine continues.

“The war between Russia and Ukraine—and the media attention this conflict has garnered—explains this fear,” according to the university’s blog.

The last time fear of nuclear weapons made the top 10 was in 2017 when threats from North Korea garnered media attention by test-launching ballistic missiles and conducting nuclear tests.

“Fear of Russia using nuclear weapons seems to be representative of a more overarching fear of Americans centered around war,” the report reads.

Biological warfare and the possibility of a new world war were ranked also in the top 10.

Health Fears Remain Strong

Americans also reported, again, being afraid of a loved one being harmed this year. This fear has factored strongly in the survey over the last few years, likely because the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn more attention to health-related issues and elevated these fears among the public, the study reported.

Fear of “people I love becoming seriously ill” and fear of “people I love dying” have ranked in the top 10 on every survey since 2019.

About 58 percent of respondents this year said they were afraid of a loved one dying and about 60 percent were afraid a loved one would become seriously ill. Interestingly, only 29 percent said they were afraid of dying themselves and only 42 percent were afraid of getting seriously sick.

“Americans tend to fear more for the health and safety of loved ones than their own,” the university noted.

Fear of contracting COVID-19 ranked in the top three fears last year, but dropped in this year’s study drastically to 74th place, with only 23 percent surveyed saying they fear the virus compared to 58 percent in the 2020–2021 survey.

Fearing Crime

Coming in below sexual assault by a stranger and gang violence but above sharks and dying, racial and hate crimes ranked the 59th most feared, as nearly 30 percent of respondents reported being fearful of such crimes.

Meanwhile, a high percentage of those surveyed—45 percent—reported they remain afraid of civil unrest.

Random mass shootings also frightened about 40 percent this year, but not as much as high medical bills, at 44 percent of those surveyed—a 1-percent increase from last year.

Respondents reported being more fearful of public speaking than dying, ranking it 46th as opposed to 61st for the latter. Dying was not as big of a concern as sharks, floods, oil spills, and high medical bills.

Twenty-two percent said they are afraid they will be murdered by someone close to them. The concern was ranked 77th, just below fear of small spaces but above new technology and a large volcanic eruption.

Environmental Concerns Decrease

The fear of climate change and environmental degradation was falling, according to the survey. Those concerns were prominent in previous surveys, but this year, people were shifting away from the matters.

Fear of environmental issues, which reached the top 10 in 2017, dropped off abruptly in last year’s survey, with only pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes remaining in the top 10. This year, water pollution remained the ninth-highest fear. Global warming and climate change dropped in rank from 13 to 15 with 47 percent of respondents reporting fear over the issue.

Fear of air pollution also decreased to 47 percent this year, compared to three years ago, when nearly 60 percent were afraid of it. And, last year, only 41 percent said they shared the concern.

Fear of pollution in drinking water increased this year from 45 percent last year to 55 percent. Polluted drinking water was feared by 65 percent of respondents in 2019.

Money Matters

About 54 percent of respondents said they fear not having enough money for the future, ranking it seventh on the list, while more than half ranked fear of economic or financial collapse as the eighth most feared.

Other financial matters—including unemployment, not having enough money to pay rent or mortgages, and not being able to pay off college debt—also ranked among the top concerns.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.
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