CANTERBURY, England — “Doomsday prepping” or stockpiling food, medicine, weapons and other supplies in case of an apocalyptic scenario has long been considered peculiar behavior only exhibited by conspiracy theorists and other extremists in the United States. However, such prepping has actually been steadily on the rise in the U.S. over the past decade. So, what’s causing this surge in stockpiled rice packets and underground bunkers? One group of researchers say it is an ever growing sense of impending doom in American culture.
Many have speculated that this surge in doomsday preppers over the last 10 years was linked to an extreme political reaction among many conservatives to Barack Obama’s initial election in 2008, but a new study out of the United Kingdom finds that neither the Obama presidency nor extreme right-wing conspiracy theories in general are the main cause of this growing phenomenon.
Researchers interviewed preppers from 18 U.S. states and asked about their motivations for stockpiling food and supplies. The results indicated that, although most did seem to be conservative and fear liberal policies, the main reason behind their motivations was the overall sense of fear currently dominating U.S. culture across a variety of media channels. Most Americans can’t seem to log online or turn on the television without being hit by a grim view of the future being reported or speculated on.
Potential occurrences commonly worried about by preppers include possible economic depressions, terrorist attacks, cyber-attacks, pandemics, or environmental disasters.
Furthermore, researchers say that frequent recommendations from the U.S. government on how to prepare for potential disasters, such as when residents of certain communities are advised to stockpile water in preparation for a hurricane or blackout, have also contributed to the rising number of doomsday preppers in the United States.
The study’s authors say their findings paint a more nuanced picture of doomsday preppers and their motivations, especially since up until now most were simply considered crazy or delusional. According to their results, most preppers don’t believe the world will end tomorrow or a giant meteor will hit the earth at any moment, they simply want to be prepared for anything “just in case” something terrible happens.
Researchers note that while extreme right-wing ideologies don’t seem to be the main cause of these fears and preparations, the general idea among many conservatives that if a Democrat regains control of the White House it will inevitably lead to chaos remains very much connected to the phenomenon of doomsday preppers. At the end of the day, though, that is just another possible event for conservative preppers to fear, and not the main cause.
“Fear is now deeply entrenched in modern American culture and is the principal reason that so many citizens are engaging in ‘prepping’,” explains lead author Dr. Michael Mills in a release.
According to Mills, these preppers believe that if the worse were to happen, the government’s response simply wouldn’t be adequate and many people would be left to fend for themselves.
“Rather than seeing prepping as an exception within America’s right-wing political culture, we ought to see it as being reflective of increasingly established and popular outlooks,” Mills comments.
The study is published in the Journal of American Studies.