What natural disasters do Americans worry about?

June 21, 2011, 6:41 PM GMT+0

Are you worried about natural disasters? If so, do not fear: you are in the clear majority of Americans. As a survey conducted earlier this month shows, 71% percent of Americans are concerned about the potential of a natural disaster wreaking havoc in their life.

Yet all natural disasters are not created equal and some weighed more heavily on the minds of Americans than others. We asked our respondents which disasters they were worried about, with the following results:

  • Tornadoes: 64%
  • Earthquakes: 40%
  • Hurricanes: 33%
  • Floods: 32%
  • Tsunami: 9%
  • Volcanic eruption: 8%

Despite all this worry, only a minority of Americans admitted to doing anything about it. 31% of those asked had made preparations in case of an emergency. Of those who had said yes:

  • 91% had emergency supplies such as flash lights or a first aid kit
  • 69% had food stocks
  • 57% had created an emergency or evacuation plan
  • 22% had disaster insurance

Across demographic groups, two interesting trends emerged. First, there was a curious relationship between the political ideology of our respondents and the disasters they worried about. For example, 51% of those who identified as Liberal expressed concern about earthquakes, as opposed to 29% of Conservatives. 72% of Conservatives, on the other hand, had worries about tornados, in contrast to 59% of Liberals. There is probably a simple explanation, however. The regional distribution of concern was extremely divided: only 20% of those in the South were worried about earthquakes, compared to 77% in the West. As such, it seems more likely that this trend was caused by differences in the regional distribution of political preference than the innate connection between a desire for lower taxes and the fear of violently rotating air.

Second, young people were generally more worried about more kinds of natural disaster than the other age groups. This was sometimes even by a large margin. 47% of the 18-34 age group, for example, had fears about the possibility of floods, compared to 27% of all those survey 35 and older. And 17% of the 18-34 year-olds held worries about tsunamis, almost triple the 6% of the older demographics who expressed the same fear. While many factors could be the source of this fear, one may be that the youngest demographic was also the least likely to have prepared for a disaster, with only 19% answering that they had, in contrast to 33% of 33-54 year olds and 38% of the 55+ demographics.