What percentage of people are afraid of public speaking? And is public speaking still the most common fear?
Public speaking is commonly stated as the number one fear above everything else – even death. This notion was popularised by Jerry Seinfeld when he stated that most people at a funeral would prefer to be in the coffin than to be giving the eulogy.
But what percentage of people are actually afraid of public speaking and can we really define it as the number one fear?
The R.H. Bruskin Survey
The most commonly stated study on this topic is the survey by R.H. Bruskin Associates from July 1973.
This survey asked people about many different fears. The results showed that 41% of people were afraid of public speaking. And only 19% of people stated that they were afraid of death.
So this survey did indeed show that more people were afraid of public speaking than death.
But it’s important to note that public speaking is not necessarily the number one fear amongst people. It is not the thing that they fear the most but rather it is the most common fear shared among people in general. It could be a small fear or it could be a significant phobia with anxiety and panic attacks.
The Gallup Poll
Further surveys have been done over and over again. A common one that people refer to now is the Gallup Poll undergone in 1998 and in 2001.
The 2001 survey found that 40% of people were afraid of public speaking. Public speaking was the second most common fear after the fear of snakes.
This same Gallup Poll in 1998 stated that 45% of people were afraid of public speaking. It again came second to snakes.
Many surveys have been done between 2001 and 2014 with varying results. You can look into these surveys if you would like more detail.
An important thing to know is that approximately one-third of these surveys found that public speaking was the most common fear. This means that two-thirds of these surveys found that something else was the most common fear.
The surveys and the resulting percentages vary widely. It is unclear exactly what percentage of the population is afraid of public speaking. But using these surveys as a guide allows us to assume that just under half of the population is afraid of public speaking in some sense.
Are you afraid of public speaking? Do you want to improve your confidence and get over the fear of public speaking? Then head over to the Public Speaking Power archives. We have lots of activities to help you improve your public speaking skills. We also have articles on how to overcome the fear of public speaking and so much more.
So what percentage of people are afraid of public speaking? It seems to be around the 40-45% mark according to the studies.