Gallup Poll on Y2K and the Senate report : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


March 3, 1999

Public Opinion on the Y2K Problem

By Frank Newport,

Although a special report issued today by a Senate subcommittee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem suggested that the U.S. is not going to face catastrophic problems at the end of the year, Gallup polling indicates that many Americans are personally concerned and plan on taking specific actions to protect themselves against the impact of possible Y2K issues.


The American public, when asked about its confidence that a number of different governments will have the problem fixed by the end of the century, has most confidence in their state government. Seventy three percent of those polled in a special USA Today/National Science Foundation poll conducted in December said that their state government will have their systems fixed by the year 2000. A slightly lower number, 68%, have confidence that their local government and the U.S. government will have their systems fixed. Americans have much lower confidence that governments outside of the U.S. will have the problem fixed. Only 48% say they are confident that the industrialized countries around the world will not be plagued by Y2K problems, and a very low 18% say as much for the less developed countries. These perceptions are significant, as some observers have pointed out the potential dangers if countries with nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons lose control of them due to Y2K issues.

The Senate report also highlighted the potential problems associated with various industry segments across the country. The report highlighted the health care industry as one with a particularly high potential for significant problems, but only a relatively small number of Americans 33%- say that they think it likely that hospital equipment and services will fail, putting patients at risk.

Concern with banks is much higher, with 63% of Americans saying they think it likely that banking and accounting systems will fail. After banks, Americans are most concerned about air traffic controls systems (46% say they think it is likely that these will fail, putting air traffic in jeopardy), food and retail distribution systems (37% think these will fail), and "911" systems (36% say these wont work).

Will Americans themselves be taking special precautions on or about January 1, 2000? Many will. When asked in the December poll about a series of possible precautions they could be taking, 65% of Americans said they would be obtaining special confirmation or documentation of bank accounts and other financial records before the end of the year. Forty-seven percent said they would avoid traveling on airplanes on or around January 1, and 31% said they intended to withdraw and set aside a large amount of cash. Smaller numbers said they would stockpile food and water, buy a generator or wood stove, or withdraw all of their money from the bank.

If problems do occur, Americans feel that they are likely to last weeks if not months, rather than days. Sixty eight percent said that such problems would be likely to last for several weeks to a year, while only 15% said they would last only a few days. Only 11% said, on the other hand, that they would last for more than a year.


-- Kevin (, March 07, 1999


Not that I trust polls, but the percentages would indicate a much larger degree of awareness than I had thought at this juncture.

-- Mike Lang (, March 07, 1999.

Good find Kevin. It was somewhat surprising to see that people are expecting the problems to last "weeks if not months, rather than days" givien all of the 2 - 3 day stuff we have been hearing and seeing.

One observation: The banking and financial services industry are consistently rated the best prepared sector for Y2K, while the medical industry consistently is towards the bottom for Y2K readiness. I found interesting: "63% of Americans saying they think it likely that banking and accounting systems will fail" and "33% say that they think it likely that hospital equipment and services will fail, putting patients at risk." Perception just the opposite of reality?

I have posted the following opinion in the past, will post it again now, and will be posting it in the future: People are concerned for their money. It is always money. Our fiat currency and banking system rests on a very fragile confidence. Y2K threatens that confidence. Panic has the highest chance of happening in the banks/stock markets first, barring a Y2K catastrophe. Any questions? Follow the money.

-- Rob Michaels (, March 07, 1999.

Very interesting Kevin.

Here's an MSNBC interactive poll: news/246937.asp#BODY

Even if U.S. Y2K problems prove minimal, do you think other countries might face economic or even social chaos?

* 1357 responses

Yes 80%

No 14%

Can't decide 6%

Survey results tallied every 60 seconds. Live Votes reflect respondents' views and are not scientifically valid surveys.

This might reflect that internet users in general are more Y2K aware, as opposed to the Gallup poll sample which "Only 48% say they are confident that the industrialized countries around the world will not be plagued by Y2K problems,..."

-- Chris (, March 07, 1999.

I agree with Chris that internet bias is a big factor. But I've also been getting the feeling lately that a significant number of people are privately beginning to take Y2K seriously, although without much acknowledgement of that in their public lives. It could be that one of the greatest needs now is a better integration of our private and public Y2K approaches.

-- Bill Byars (, March 07, 1999.

You're right, Rob. People are concerned about money.

But, there is another element, and that's in the category of "what is conceivable to people?"

Within the context of Life as they have known it, most people can imagine financial snafu's. They have experienced some degree of aggravation with "errors" of this nature.

But to imagine possible catastrophies, such as "911" not working or water being unavailable or unsanitary, or no food on the grocery shelves is just too big a stretch. IT WOULD IMPLY TOO GREAT A CHANGE WOULD BE REQUIRED OF THEM TO ACCEPT THIS POSSIBILITY. IT WOULD MEAN THEY WOULD BE FORCED TO ALTER THEIR VIEW OF THE WORLD AND OF HOW THEY MUST RESPOND TO MEET THE POTENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

Perhaps the answer to "Why do some folks Get IT and others Don't (can't) Get It is revealed in this phenomenon: the degree of IMAGINATION one has?

-- Sara Nealy (, March 07, 1999.

sara, are you really implying that GIs fear imaginary problems? Or are they just imagining that they do?

-- Flint (, March 07, 1999.

"Imagination" is so often confused with "imaginary" or "imagined".

I refer to "imagination" as the capacity to visualize, conceptualize and fill in the picture fully.

Some gots the capacity, and some don't gots it.

Got imagination?

-- Sara Nealy (, March 07, 1999.

BTW, "imagination" is not an antonym for "logic".

Best used together....

-- Sara Nealy (, March 07, 1999.

That's why that exact phrase crept into the "Y2K language"" a person with imagination, the ability to see through the trees to see not only the forest, but then to be able to imagine a forest fire when warned about the dry trees and no rainfall, the lack of firefighters and the upcoming lightening storm, is the person who "gets it" - who steps a little past the comon "yeah, yeah" blather and understands a two or three step logic jump past their showlaces.

Exercising that logic and mental process is tricky and very difficult - without - as pointed out - jumping into unrealistic nightmares. Can one exercise it with discussions about Y2K, operas and classic music, limericks, puns, word association, research, "reading between the lines" of government reports and phrases, of writing haiku or free verse?

My opinion - yes, plus anything else that wakes up tired patterns of ingrained TV-set MTV feedme entertainment, but no thoughts. And if Ed's continued support of this buch of crazies continues, he evidently feels the same.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 07, 1999.

You can see the full results of the December 1998 Gallup poll at this link:

-- Kevin (, March 09, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ