True Crime TV Is Scaring Americans, New Study Finds

October 29, 2014 | Prachi Gupta

I know that Law & Order: SVU is highly addictive, but you may want to switch up your Netflix rotation because it’s also making you paranoid. A new study by Chapman University has found that the more true crime television Americans watch, “higher their levels of fear” over terrorist attacks, cybersecurity issues, personal safety, and more. The same goes for talk television, by the way, so say goodbye to Nancy Grace and Bill O’Reilly for a while, and you might find that the world isn’t quite so terrible. The survey finds that in addition to television, a lack of education is another contributing factor to elevated fear:


Chapman University’s National Survey of American Fears collected responses from 1,572 Americans and found that the number one fear of Americans is walking alone at night, followed by a fear of public speaking and a fear being a victim of a mass shooting, both tied at 9%. The study doesn’t seem to say how irrational American fears are, however. Study co-author Dr. Edward Day explains that our fear of violent crime ignores the fact that the crime rate has consistently dropped over the past two decades, but what about our fear of mass shootings, which have, indeed, been on the rise?

Nonetheless, the research is a fascinating peak into the minds of Americans and what sort of thoughts haunt the darkest corners of our minds. Here’s a list of the top concerns, based on various demographic characteristics:

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

(Photo: stuart anthony)