The psychology of why Americans are more scared of terrorism than guns, though guns are 3,210 times likelier to kill them — Quartz
According to the New America Foundation, jihadists killed 94 people inside the United States between 2005 and 2015. During that same time period, 301,797 people in the US were shot dead, Politifact reports.
At first blush, these numbers might seem to indicate that Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven countries—a goal he said was intended to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States”—is utterly misguided.
But Trump is right about at least one thing: Americans are more afraid of terrorism than they are of guns, despite the fact that guns are 3,210 times more likely to kill them.
Chapman University has conducted a Survey of American Fears for more than three years. It asks 1,500 adults what they fear most. It organizes the fears into categories that include personal fears, conspiracy theories, terrorism, natural disasters, paranormal fears, and more recently, fear of Muslims.
In 2016, Americans’ number-one fear was “corruption of government officials”—the same top fear as in 2015. Terrorist attacks came second. In fact, of the top five fears, two are terror-related. And number five is not fear of guns but fear of government restrictions on guns. Fear of a loved one dying—whether by gun violence or anything else—came next.
One reason people’s fears don’t line up with actual risks is that our brains are wired by evolution to make fast judgements which are not always backed up by logical reasoning. “Our emotions push us to make snap judgments that once were sensible—but may not be anymore,” Maia Szalavitz, a child psychiatrist, wrote in 2008 in Psychology Today.