Elon Poll: N.C. residents most concerned about public shootings, terrorism and pedestrian safety
The latest survey by the Elon University Poll conducted March 30-April 1, 2019, asked residents to weigh on a range of potential risks, asking them to say how unsafe each made them feel.
A new survey by the Elon University Poll conducted in partnership with The Raleigh News & Observer and The Durham Herald-Sun offers insights into what causes North Carolina residents to be the most concerned for their safety, with shootings in public places, terrorism and walking along roads without sidewalks ranking at the top of the list.
The poll offered a list of 37 total potential risks, asking each respondent to say how unsafe they feel when it comes to those risks. Some were more generalized risks, such as artificial intelligence or climate change, while others were more tangible and specific, such as healthcare costs, not having enough food or unemployment. The survey also asked about a range of animals, from tiny ticks to massive sharks, along with larger societal issues, such as the cost of living, drug addiction and crime.
Generally speaking, older residents were less likely to say they feel unsafe about these various risks, while younger people, particularly those under the age of 30, were more likely to say they feel unsafe. Residents without a college degree were more likely to say they feel unsafe than those with a college degree and women were more likely to say they feel unsafe than men. Similar splits were seen along racial and party lines, with blacks generally more likely to say they feel unsafe than whites, and Democrats more likely to say they feel unsafe than Republicans.
Responses also differed by income level, with residents of lower-income households making less than $50,000 annually more likely to feel unsafe than those from households making more than $50,000. Ranking particularly high among lower-income residents were risks such as contaminated food and water, unemployment and drug addiction.
The survey of 1,489 North Carolina adults was conducted March 30 through April 1 through an opt-in survey sample marketplace. The survey has a credibility interval of +/- 2.7 percent. Different from a margin of error, the credibility interval is used to measure the accuracy of nonprobability surveys such as opt-in online surveys. A fuller explanation of the credibility interval and the survey methodology are available in the full report.
Topping the list was shootings in public places, with 37 percent of residents saying they feel “very unsafe” and another 23 percent saying they feel “somewhat unsafe.” Safety concerns about public shootings appeared to stretch across age, gender, racial, party, income and geographic lines, with it ranking as the top concern among all different groups.
Certain groups were far more concerned about public shootings than others. Half of residents under the age of 30 said they feel “very unsafe” when it comes to public shootings, 13 percentage points higher than the average, and 21 percentage points higher than residents 65 years old or older. Forty-five percent of women feel very unsafe about public shootings, compared to 29 percent of men, and 52 percent of black residents said they feel “very unsafe,” compared to 31 percent of whites.
Terrorism was a close second overall, with 33 percent of respondents saying they feel “very unsafe,” and third was walking along roads without sidewalks, with 32 percent saying they feel “very unsafe.” Similarly, high levels of fear from terrorism and pedestrian safety stretched across multiple demographic groups for these risks as well.
Grouping together those people who felt “somewhat unsafe” or “very unsafe” offers additional insight into which risks people are most concerned with. Such a grouping highlights 10 top risks for which at least half the population feels “unsafe” about, with crime, animals, health and weather risks among these risks. Two-thirds of the population feels unsafe about walking along roads without sidewalks, followed by 60 percent who feel unsafe about shootings in public places. Ticks and snakes follow (57 percent and 56 percent, respectively) along with healthcare costs and terrorism (both 55 percent), contaminated food, contagious diseases and hurricanes (53 percent for all three) and tornadoes (51 percent).
At the low end of the overall list were a cluster of potential risks including animals and transportation. Just 4 percent of residents said they feel “very unsafe” about dogs and deer, and 4 percent of residents said they feel “very unsafe” about bridges and trains. Also falling toward the bottom of the list were driving, your personal health and tall buildings, with just 5 percent of respondents saying they feel “very unsafe” about each of those potential risks.
Risks in nature
The Elon Poll asked about a variety of potentially dangerous animals to see which caused the most safety concerns. Topping the list was snakes, with 29 percent of all residents saying they feel “very unsafe,” followed by 24 percent who said they feel “very unsafe” about ticks and 23 percent who said they feel “very unsafe” about sharks.
Turning to weather, 17 percent of all residents say they feel “very unsafe” about climate change, but specific weather incidents are more of a worry to them. The survey found that 29 percent of residents feel “very unsafe” about tornadoes and 26 percent feel “very unsafe” about hurricanes. Rural residents had higher safety concerns about hurricanes and tornadoes than their urban counterparts.
Healthcare costs also ranked high among a variety of demographic groups. Overall, 27 percent of residents feel “very unsafe” about healthcare costs, with those between the ages of 45 and 64 having the highest levels of concern. Lower-income residents were more likely to say they feel “very unsafe” about healthcare costs, and independent voters more likely to say they feel “very unsafe” than either Republicans or Democrats.
However, residents are generally less concerned about their own health, with 5 percent said they feel “very unsafe” about their own health. That percentage grew significantly when residents were asked about contagious diseases, with one in four saying that they make them feel “very unsafe.”
Drug addiction was another risk that ranked relatively high, with lower-income residents, minorities, women and less-educated residents all more likely to show higher levels of concern. Overall, 24 percent of N.C. residents said they feel “very unsafe” about drug addiction, with an additional 11 percent saying they feel “somewhat unsafe.”
Crime ranked roughly in middle of the list of risks, with 17 percent saying they feel “very unsafe” about crime at work or school, and 14 percent saying they feel “very unsafe” about crime at their home or in their neighborhood. More specific crimes ranked higher, as seen in the high rankings for shootings and terrorism. Additionally, 26 percent of residents said they feel “very unsafe” about kidnappings or abductions.
Also ranking high were safety concerns about nuclear power plants and building fires. When asked about fires in buildings, 28 percent said they feel “very unsafe,” while nuclear power plants make 17 percent of residents feel “very unsafe.”
Economic concerns also make residents feel unsafe. Among residents, 17 percent said they feel “very unsafe” about unemployment, with little variation by educational level. Looking at income levels, those from households making less than $50,000 were much more likely to say they feel “very unsafe” about unemployment (20 percent) than those from households making more than $50,000 (12 percent).
Asked about the cost of living, 15 percent of residents said it makes them feel “very unsafe,” and an additional 26 percent said it makes them feel “somewhat unsafe.” Food availability ranked lower, with 12 percent saying that not having enough food made them feel “very unsafe.
N.C. residents registered relatively low levels of concern about transportation risks and those associated with structures such as bridges, nuclear power plants and tall buildings. Ten percent of residents said they feel “very unsafe” about airplanes, with 5 percent saying they feel “very unsafe” about driving, and 4 percent saying they feel “very unsafe” about trains.