Fear of terrorism is big even though the chance of being terrorized is small

New poll shows what we are most afraid of

TAMPA - A growing list of city names has become shorthand for terror:  Aurora, Newtown, now even Boston.  And though the chance of you or me becoming a victim in a mass killing is tiny, the fear looms large.

Tampa Psychologist Jeremy Gaies says along with the fear of pain and loss, the human psyche is particularly averse to uncertainty.

"Random acts of violence, whether it's terror or road rage or muggings or rapes or burglaries, these are things that we just can't predict, so therefore they're very frightening," said Dr. Gaies.

In the two days after the Boston Marathon, Reuters/Ipsos polled a sampling of Americans on what they believed to be the biggest threat to their safety.

Random acts of violence here at home topped the list with 56 percent of respondents.  Thirty-two percent most feared foreign terror attacks.  And domestic or homegrown terrorism was third at just 13 percent.  
 
The savagery and unpredictability of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre may represent our worst fear, though such events are mercifully rare.

"The reality is most of the time bad things don't happen.  We start to exaggerate in our minds the fears. And one of the reasons is because of our exposure to it.  We see repeated clips of acts of violence in news reports," says Dr. Gaies.

The 24-hour news cycle does serve to stoke the anxiety, which is why the doctor prescribes moderation in news consumption.

"Find a reliable source and get your news once a day and then move on with the rest of your life."

The poll found overwhelming support for our leaders' response to the recent violence from the president on down, but more than half of the respondents fear terror incidents like the Boston bombing will result in an infringement of their rights as American citizens.   

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