A third of Americans are ready to give sharks the benefit of the doubt, while scorpions top the list of animals which Americans are most afraid of.
With Discovery's Shark Week closing out its 26th year, sharks have continued to make inroads into American pop culture. Yet even with only one fatal shark attack reported in the US last year, the carnivorous fish have never quite shaken the man-eating reputation they developed as a result of 1975's Jaws. New research from YouGov hints that Americans may feel that this is due for a change.
When asked "are sharks misunderstood", more than a third of Americans (36%) say that they are. 30% of Americans, on the other hand, say that sharks don't deserve the benefit of the doubt and 33% are not sure.
Those most likely to plead for clemency for sharks include college graduates (47% say sharks are misunderstood), males (42%) and Democrats (41%). Those with only a high school education (29%) and those over 65 years old (28%) are the least likely to think that sharks deserve a second chance.
The same poll shows that sharks aren't even the animal most feared by Americans. That title belongs to scorpions, which 60% of Americans say they are afraid of, followed by snakes (59%) and crocodiles and alligators (57%). 53% of Americans say they are afraid of sharks.
A 2011 YouGov poll showed that 11% of Americans were too afraid of sharks to go into the water at the beach. Despite the fear, only one person died from shark attack in the United States last year and data from the CDC indicates that humans are more likely to be killed by bees, horses or even cows.
YouGov has not yet conducted research on America's new natural enemy number one, scorpions. However, according to Chris Putnam, a researcher at Arizona State University, scorpions might just be as unfairly targeted as sharks. As Putnam writes, "Scorpions are often misunderstood". There have been no reported scorpion fatalities in two decades.
Image courtesy of Getty.