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During the Cold War, previous generations of Americans were mostly afraid of nuclear Armageddon in a battle with the Soviet Union.

Now, in the Information Age, with the constant digital transmission of personal data seemingly floating around in cyberspace, just waiting to be stolen or abused.

PrintAnd if a culture’s fears reflect the general anxiety of an era, then it’s no surprise more young Americans are afraid of being hacked or losing their data and privacy than just about anything — even nuclear war or an Ebola outbreak, according to an exclusive Rare poll.

It’s easy to see why we worry. News stories frequently report that hackers have accessed private information from hospitals and retailers. Celebrities’ private photos and data have been leaked and posted all over the Internet without their consent. And government statistics show an increase in complaints about identity theft while the rates of other crimes have gone down.

Last fall, Gallup reported more Americans fear hacking than any other crime, including murder.

“Young people are less concerned about ISIS and more concerned with hypothetical events such as nuclear disaster,” said Doug Kaplan, managing partner of Gravis Marketing, the nonpartisan market research firm that conducted the Rare Under 40 poll.

Our exclusive Rare Under 40 poll asked Americans to rank common sources of dread. The results show that young people are most afraid of being hacked or losing their data — 52 percent. However, Americans over 40 are most afraid of foreign powers, such as ISIS, China, Russia or North Korea — 55 percent. Coming in dead last for both age groups? The rapture.

While both age groups mostly agree on what they are and aren’t afraid of, more Americans over 40 say they fear gay marriage in all 50 states — 31 percent of the older generations vs. 21 percent of those under 40.

The top fears among under-40s are, in this order:

  1. Being hacked, loss of data and/or privacy
  2. Nuclear war
  3. Foreign powers
  4. A deadly virus or epidemic (as Ebola has drawn headlines worldwide and domestically)
  5. Democrats

The top fears among over-40s are, in this order:

  1. Foreign powers
  2. Being hacked
  3. Nuclear war
  4. Epidemic
  5. Democrats

*FINAL Rare_Poll 1 Charts FEAR

Over the next several days, we’ll explore 24 questions in-depth, taking a close look at the difference between age groups while also weighing key demographic differences such as political party, race and education. It’s also an opportunity to revisit the previous Rare Under 40 poll, which found young people hold surprising views on Obama, marijuana, God and more.

This Rare survey was conducted by Gravis Insights between April 27 and May 5. A total of 2,261 registered voters of all ages were interviewed about several issues using landlines, cellphones and Internet panels. Overall, the poll has a margin of error of ±2 percentage points and was weighted by select demographic characteristics.

How would you answer the question?

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