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NSF News

Embargoed until 6:00am, EST
News - December 22, 1999

NSF SP 99-06
Media contact:  Bill Line  (703) 306-1070
Program contact:  George Strawn  (703) 306-1950

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Poll Shows Continuing Decline in "Y2K" Concern

Slight Rise Reported in Water, Food Stockpiling Plans

With only nine days until the New Year, Americans report a continued downward trend in their concern and worry levels regarding Year 2000-related computer problems, according to the fifth in a year-long series of Gallup polls.

The nationwide telephone poll, conducted in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and USA Today, surveyed 1,011 adults between December 16 and 19. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

"These poll results show one more time that a well-informed and educated public is able to increase its understanding of the consequences of 'Y2K' and make informed decisions for themselves and their families," said George Strawn, NSF's Computer Networking Division Director. "With the year 2000 now staring us in the face, this poll is further evidence that as the public's knowledge and awareness of 'Y2K' rises over the past year, its level of worry, fear and concern falls," Strawn added.

The NSF-commissioned polls began in December 1998. Polls were also conducted in March, August and November 1999. All five NSF-commissioned polls ask the same questions in order to discover trends or track changes in the public's attitudes regarding "Y2K."

Nearly 90% of those polled this time say they have seen or heard "some or a great deal" about the Year 2000 computer issue, or "Y2K," which arises from computers that are improperly programmed to comprehend a computer's date field correctly.

In a new question added to the December poll and not asked in previous polls, three out of four Americans say they will make sure the gas tank in their car, truck or other automobile is full on New Year's Eve.

Other significant findings from the December poll include:

  • only seven percent of Americans (down from 12 percent in November) now think major problems will result due to Year 2000 computer mistakes.

  • more than half of the adults polled (55%) now believe "Y2K" computer problems will last "only a few days around January 1, 2000." This is up from only 15% who held this view one year ago. 40% of respondents (down from 68% a year ago and from 51% one month ago) now say "Y2K" effects may last from "several weeks" or "from several months to a year."

  • 51% of those polled (down from 55% in November) say they will avoid travelling on airplanes on or around January 1, 2000 while the December poll found a continuing downward trend (46% one year ago, 43% in March, 35% in August, 34% in November and 27% now) in respondents believing air traffic control systems will fail, putting air travel in jeopardy.

  • the December poll found a continuous downward trend from 63% one year ago to 34% now in the percentage of those polled who believe banking and accounting systems will fail, possibly causing errors in employee paychecks, government payments or other automated financial transactions.

  • fewer Americans-48% now from 58% in November and 65% a year ago-say they will obtain special confirmation or documentation of their bank account balances, retirement funds, or other financial records.

  • slightly more than one in five (22% now compared with 36% a year ago) say city or county "911" communications systems will fail, possibly putting citizens at risk.

  • one in five Americans now believe hospital equipment and services will fail compared with one in three Americans holding that view a year ago.

Despite previous media accounts that some Americans are preparing for food or water delivery systems to fail, the December 1999 poll found:

  • more than 9 out of 10 respondents (93%) say they will not withdraw all their money from the bank; however about one in five (21%) say they will withdraw and set aside a large amount of cash.

  • a slight rise (42% now, up from 40% in November and 36% in August) in the number of Americans who say they will stockpile food and water, and an evening off in the number (12% now, 13% in November, 14% in August) who say they will buy generators or wood stoves.

  • a continuing downward trend showing one-quarter of Americans now believe (compared with 35% in August and 40% in March) food and retail distribution systems will fail, causing grocery and other store shortages.

NSF is an independent federal agency with an annual budget of about $3.9 billion, primarily used in support of fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering, as well as wide-ranging education programs. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to more than 2,000 universities and institutions nationwide. NSF receives more than 50,000 requests for funding annually, including at least 30,000 new proposals.


NOTE TO ALL MEDIA: For copies of the December, 1999 poll questions and response rates, call Bill Line at NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, (703) 306-1070, or view the poll results online.

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