Americans' worst fears are changing with the times

In this modern age, Americans’ worst fears seem to be shifting sharply from personal safety to electronic security.

Two recent Gallup Polls confirm this change. The first poll this month found that citizen concerns about walking alone at night near their home have fallen to a 52-year-low of 30%.

The average fear level since 1965 has been 38%, the poll reported, with the highest level coming in at 48% in 1982. The highest levels of fear about walking alone at night came between 1972 and 1993 when responses never fell below 40%.

Fears began to fall in the mid-1990’s, perhaps coincident with the actual level of crime falling then. It has not exceeded 40% again since 1993.

Paradoxically, an identical low level of concern of 30% came in October, 2001, the month after 9/11.

Those most fearful of walking alone at night are predictable and the usual suspects — big city residents with lower incomes, younger from 18 to 29 especially nonwhites.

Conversely, far more Americans — fully two-out-of-three — worry most today about cyber-crime, mainly the online theft of personal information. Sixty-seven percent fear hackers stealing personal information online, about the same as the 66% fearing theft of their identity online.

Those fears are now far worse even than having their car stolen (38%) or their home burglarized in their absence (36%). Being a victim of terrorism, however, has crept into the top five crime concerns, Gallup found.

Being assaulted or killed by a co-worker holds the least fear at 6%.

With high profile hackings at places such as Yahoo, Equifax, the federal government and Target, since 2009 the percentage of adults fearing cyber-crimes has consistenly been far ahead of concerns over other crimes.

One-in-four Americans said they or a household members have had personal information stolen online during the last year. Sixteen percent of that same adult group reported identity theft during the same period.