For Immediate Release
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
UMDNJ Researcher Says Landmark Survey Indicates Fears of Nuclear or Biological Warfare, but Little Concern for Global Warming
5/17/05—Americans are overwhelmingly optimistic about their own futures but many maintain a grim view of the world's future, anticipating a nuclear or biological war to break out during the next 20 years, according to the results of a landmark national survey conducted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
In a survey that sampled some 2,000 adults ranging in age from18 to 65 years and older, those interviewed had lofty personal expectations but cast a wary eye on the welfare of America, said Dr. Donald B. Louria, the survey's lead investigator who delivered the findings today (May 17) before conference members of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. The survey was funded through a grant by ShopRite.
"What amazed us most was their determined optimism, although 72 percent said they believed there would be a biologic weapons attack against civilians and 56 percent thought a nuclear weapon attack would occur," said Dr. Louria, chairman emeritus of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.
"We believe this personal optimism is sort of a last barricade, and that the optimism may be shaky," he added. "If it is challenged by a catastrophic event, such as another terrorist attack on United States soil, a widespread infectious disease epidemic or a serious economic crisis, we could see a rapid decline in optimism and faith in the future."
Louria, a nationally recognized expert in future societal issues, warned that a sudden drop in optimism could trigger a trend toward personally destructive behavior, including increased alcohol and drug consumption and other forms of reckless behavior, including risky sexual behavior, dangerous driving practices and withdrawal from involvement in critical social issues.
"Downward trends in personal optimism could well be a harbinger of behavioral changes that could be of perilous consequence for individuals and for society overall," Dr. Louria said. "Those in leadership positions in our society, as well as educators, should particularly pay close attention to future trends."
Dr. Louria noted that the greatest optimism recorded in survey findings was 82 percent from those between the ages of 18 and 44, 75 percent of middle-aged individuals were optimistic, but only 64 percent of those above age 65 shared equal optimism. Conversely, less than 47 percent of those surveyed held optimistic views of the world's future and a majority of Americans in all ages groups expect a biological weapons attack within the next 20 years, but don't see global warming as a serious problem.
Other notable findings were that blacks were less optimistic than whites and more concerned about nuclear war potential. Also, those with strong religious ties were more optimistic about their own and the world's future. The greater the education achievement, the greater the concern for global among the ages of 18 to 24 and over 65.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Louria, contact Tom Capezzuto of the UMDNJ News Service at (973) 972-7273.