nito/Shutterstock.com

Americans say they're more afraid of clowns than climate change

Seriously, guys?

FIONA MACDONALD
25 OCT 2016
 

The US is in the middle of a so-called 'clown attack' epidemic right now, and a new survey by the good folks at Vox has just revealed that it's not just media hype - people are actually really, really freaked out about it.

In fact, the poll showed that Americans admit to being more scared of clowns than they are of climate change, terrorism, and even death. 

 

That's despite the fact that we currently just lived through the 12th hottest month on record in a row - an entire year of record-breaking temperatures - and our melting glaciers are now ticking time bombs threatening to wash entire villages away.

But, we get it, clowns are creepy. Since August, there have been more than 100 'suspicious' clown sightings reported across the US, with many of those not leading to arrests. But apparently just the sight of these clowns is enough to terrify people.

In the Vox poll - which involved 1,999 Americans and was conducted from 15-17 October this year - 42 percent of people surveyed said they were, in some way, afraid of clowns.

People aged between 18 and 29 were the most freaked out, with almost one in three admitting to at least a minor case of coulrophobia - the technical term for a fear of clowns.

The majority of people surveyed also thought that the government should do more to stop clowns from terrorising people - and not just on a local or state level. More than one in three people surveyed thought the FBI should take more action against clowns.

Vox then compared their results with another recent poll conducted by Chapman University in California earlier this month, which asked 1,511 Americans to identify their greatest fears.

 

When the Vox results were factored in, the surveys showed more people were scared of clowns (42 percent) than any other possible fear except for "government corruption" (61 percent).

A few highlights of the combined ranking are below:

  • Government corruption - 61 percent
  • Clowns - 42 percent
  • Terrorist attack - 41 percent
  • A family member dying - 38 percent
  • Climate change - 32 percent
  • Heights - 24 percent
  • Dying - 19 percent

We should point out that the two polls were slightly different - while the Vox Poll asked people whether they were "very afraid", "somewhat afraid", or "a little afraid", the Chapman University poll had "very afraid", "afraid", and "a little afraid" as the options.

The raw data also haven't been peer-reviewed or made public, so it's hard to read too much into these results beyond the initial findings.

For example, we don't know how much exposure the participants have had to recent media reports of clowns - something that could potentially skew the results - and the fears were all self-reported, so it's not the most objective way to measure which fears are really impacting people's lives.

We also don't know how seriously people were taking the survey - with 'killer clowns' all over the internet at the moment, people might have thought it was a funny thing to say they were frightened of. 

But it's a pretty insightful (and depressing) observation about what the public thinks is a threat, compared to what scientists know is a threat.

Because clowns lurking around carparks at 3am might not necessarily be safe, but we have an overwhelming amount of peer-reviewed data to show us that climate change definitely isn't safe at the current rate it's happening.

Maybe if we want to get people really worried about rising temperatures, we need to link them to an increase in clowns, because, apparently, not even death is as terrifying as face paint and a red wig.

More From ScienceAlert