Scary boo: From spiders & snakes to death & big government, Canadians reveal what scares them most

Scary boo: From spiders & snakes to death & big government, Canadians reveal what scares them most

Four-in-ten Millennials say children should trick or treat until 15 or later. Older Canadians disagree.

October 30, 2017 – While darkness falls across the land, with the midnight hour close at hand, ghouls, zombies and ghosts (princesses, cowboys and pumpkins too!) prepare to head from house to house, evading tricks and securing treats. The witching – and wizarding hour – is close at hand.

But what about those Canadians who have long since passed their candy scavenging days? The Angus Reid Institute decided to offer them some fear and fun … in the form of the latest public opinion survey.

A new report from the Institute finds decreasing concerns about the safety of children on Halloween night, opinions on trick or treating past and present and asks Canadians what they’re most afraid of. If you’re feeling a chill, turn back now. If not, proceed with caution to find out what Canadians are saying about the year’s spookiest night.

More Key Findings:

Click for full-size image

  • The number of Canadians saying trick or treating is just as safe now as it was 10 years ago has increased to a majority (52%) from 21 per cent in 1989 to 34 per cent in 1999.
  • Parents of young children are just as likely in 2017 (75%) to say their kids will go out to trick or treat as they were in 1999 (74%)
  • Older Canadians, those over 55 years of age, are much more likely to have stopped trick or treating by age 12 (45%), while one-in-four Millennials (25%) say they continued going out in search of candy until they were 15 or older



  • Is Halloween safer now for kids?

  • Three-quarters of parents say their kids will trick or treat

  • How old is too old?

    • And when did YOU stop…?

  • What Canadians are most afraid of


Is Halloween safer now for kids?

Safety on Halloween is often a concern for parents. Urban legends about poisoned candy or razor blades in apples seem to permeate each successive generation (though they have apparently been debunked). Large groups of children heading out into dark streets is of course a recipe for some chaos. Canadians in 2017 however, are viewing October 31st with less anxiety than previous generations.

The Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians how they feel about their neighbourhoods, and whether Halloween is safer or less safe than it was ten years ago. Comparing these results to Gallup Canada polling from previous decades, the trend shows significantly fewer people now saying they feel less safe. One-in-three Canadians now say it is not as safe for children to go out to trick or treat, compared to more than half (54%) who said this in 1999 and six-in-ten (62%) in 1989.


Men are twice as likely as women to perceive Halloween as safer now (10% to 5%), while women are more likely to say that the night is not as safe as it was (42% to 28%).

British Columbians evidently feel the least safe, just over four-in-ten (42%) say their province has moved in a more dangerous direction, while Quebecers are most likely to say the opposite:

How many kids are going trick-or-treating this year?

While one-in-three Canadians (35%) are saying that Halloween is less safe now, it doesn’t appear that this will have any effect on participation. Among those who have young children, three-quarters (75%) say that their young ones will be heading out into the night in search of treats. The results to this question are all but identical to those when asked in 1999:

Notably, while the number of parents saying their children will trick or treat has not changed, the perception among a majority of Canadians is that there are fewer kids have been ringing their bells or shouting from their stoops. 55 per cent say that there are less children in their neighbourhood and only six per cent say they perceive an increase. Each represents roughly a ten-point shift from 1999, as seen in the following graph:

A number of factors may be at play here. Urbanization has perhaps created separation from the community level interaction that older generations may have had. Further, while the same number of parents may be taking their children out for the evening, they may be taking out fewer children. The fertility rate hit all time lows in the mid 2000’s in Canada.


How old is too old to trick or treat?

 Coming home with a bag full of candy after a couple of hours of trekking around the neighbourhood is a nice return on investment. But at what age should kids hang up the pillow case and call it a trick or treating career? The largest number of Canadians say that 12 is a good age to stop, while many also say 13 (17%) or 14 (14%).

Millennials are much more lenient when it comes to this question. Four-in-ten (40%) say that children should stop at the age of 15 years or older, while more than half (57%) of Canadians over the age of 55 say that 12 or under is a better target.

And when did YOU stop…?

In terms of their own personal experience, generational lines are evident. Millennial Canadians are significantly more likely than older cohorts to have trick or treated until age 14 or older, while more than half of those over 55 either didn’t trick or treat at all or stopped by the age of 12 (56%).

Overall however, the average age that Canadians stopped trick or treating themselves is similar to the age that they prescribe for others:


What Canadians are most afraid of

Asked an open-ended question about what makes them most afraid in this world, Canadians offer some recurring themes:

Death and dying, of course, are near the top of the list, as are the various illnesses and injuries that can lead to such an outcome. Concern for children and other family members – and a desire to see them stay alive and in good health – is also a popular refrain.

Less-existential fears that merited mention from a significant number of respondents included all sorts of creepy-crawlies, most notably spiders (mentioned by 3.5%) and snakes (3.2%). Other “classic” fears – including heights (3.6%), darkness (1%) and clowns (0.3%) also make the list.

That said, none of these appear to be as prevalent in Canada as fearlessness. Nearly 7 per cent of respondents say they fear “nothing” this Halloween.

Click here for the full list.


The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Click here for detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey


“Scary” Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

“Deathly” Dave Korzinski, Research Associate: 250.899.0821

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