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Most Americans Calm And Collected In Face Of Possible Year 2000 Computer Chaos


PRINCETON, N.J. -- A Gallup poll asking Americans about the so called "Y2K" computer bug finds the public is not alarmed--at least not yet-- about the possibility that computer systems will wreak havoc with their lives at the dawn of the new millennium. Only one in five Americans thinks computer mistakes due to problems recognizing the year 2000 will cause major problems in their own lives; 77% foresee only minor problems at worst.

Computers still programmed with a two-digit rather than a four-digit date field will interpret the year 2000 as "1900," which may lead to system-wide errors in programs which rely on dates. Some alarmed citizens are reportedly responding to the problem by building bunkers, storing food, and arming themselves, anticipating that it will trigger Doomsday.

Although most Americans are not concerned about the impact Y2K will have on them personally, they show somewhat greater concern about the effect it may have on others. Forty-eight percent think this computer problem will cause major problems around the world, while another 48% anticipate only minor problems or no problems at all.

Some analysts have predicted Y2K snafus as critical as air traffic control breakdowns and Social Security checks going out incorrectly. Concern, or lack thereof, about such possibilities appears to be uniform across various societal groups. Men and women, college graduates and those with less formal education, as well as upper and lower income Americans, all express about equal levels of concern that the Y2K problem might cause significant problems for themselves or for the world.

Gallup will continue to ask Americans about the millennium computer glitch between now and the year 2000, tracking the extent to which publicity about business and government preparedness affects public concern.

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 5-7, 1998. For results based on samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

As you may know, most computer systems around the world have to be reprogrammed so that they can accurately recognize the date once we reach the year 2000. Do you think that computer mistakes due to the year 2000 issue will cause major problems or only minor problems?

Major Problems 48%
Minor Problems 47%
No Problems (vol.) 1%
No Opinion 4%

Do you think that computer mistakes due to the year 2000 issue will cause major problems or only minor problems for you personally?

Major Problems 20%
Minor Problems 73%
No Problems (vol.) 4%
No Opinion 3%

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