Public-Interest Polling

ATI #31 Full Report

Y2K Raises Fundamental Questions About the Social Responsibilities of Government and Business
When Technology Goes Awry

Master Questionnaire and Analysis

U.S. National Issues Survey
Conducted April 22-26, 1999, N=1001 Adults

Margin of error for full sample: +/- 3.1%;
Margin of error for half samples: +/- 4.4%
Average Interview Time, 19.67 minutes;
Number of Call Backs 5
Weighting to Produce Stratified Demographics-
agreeing with census data on region, race, race within region, and sex

© Americans Talk Issues 1999

PART 1. Where the Public Stands on Awareness, Seriousness, and Protection

[For IMPORTANT METHODOLOGICAL NOTE]

Master Questionnaire Q1

Q1. I'd like to ask, all things considered, how do you feel about computers? Have they made your life better, worse, OR in some ways better, in some worse, (INTERVIEWER, READ IF NECESSARY:) OR have they NOT affected you much one way or the other?10

 
Apr
1999
Aug
1998
Better
49%
78%
Worse
1
6
Some ways better, some worse
20
N/A
Not affected/No difference
29
40
Don’t know
1
2
Refused/NA
 

Analysis Q1. Computers Positive/Negative

About half of Americans clearly continue to say that computers have made their life better. The other half is not so sure.

When Q1 was asked eight months earlier in Aug. '98, it was posed as a binary question with only two choices offered, "better" or "worse". A response volunteered by 14% was "no difference/mixed", a sure sign that if "no difference" and "mixed" had been offered separately they would have scored much higher (See Locating Consensus for Democracy – A Ten-Year U.S. Experiment, pp. 43-44, for an explanation of why this happens). When the same question was re-asked for the new survey, four choices were offered with the results shown. 49% went for the "no difference/mixed" options, up from the 14% when volunteered. Clearly, the question of "how computers have affected your life" opens up such a host of images, experiences and thoughts that a whole survey could be devoted to exploring the subject.

Demographic Highlights. Significant demographic deviations from average occur with age, education, and income. Those saying "computers have made my life better" ("computer positive") drop rapidly with age, especially for those over 65: 18-29yrs, 64%; 30-39, 59%; 40-49, 44%; 40-64, 44%; 65+, 24%; and rise rapidly with education: HS or less, 32%; Some college, 51%; College grad, 67%; Postgrad, 68%. Upper income people are much more likely to be computer positive than lower income people. There is little difference between men and women (insignificant at the 95% confidence level). Remarkably, all statements in this paragraph are verbatim correct if applied to the earlier (ATI #30, Aug. '98) survey, though the percentage numbers themselves are now quite different compared to the earlier survey. For example, 19% of upper income folks were more computer positive than lower income in Aug. '98, while now the difference is 28% suggesting a growing gap between computer positives and computer negatives.

Q1 is one of the questions selected for this survey primarily to cross-tab against all other question responses, in a search for simple, easily understood attributes, usually non-Y2K-specific and biographical-type data which might serve as predictors or correlates to the many specific question responses of the survey. Combining the simple, biographical-type with the more standard demographic questions (there is no clear line between the two) into a set of universally cross-tabbed categories, we have set forth in Table 1, the names of the categories, and of the cross-tabbed items or subgroups within each category and the abbreviations sometimes used for them.

Master Questionnaire Q2

Q2. As you may know, many computers in this country and around the world have to be fixed, reprogrammed, or replaced so they will operate properly when computers have to deal with calendar date changes in years beginning with two thousand. This has been called the Year two thousand problem, the millennium glitch, the millennium bug, or the Y2K (WHY TWO KAY) problem. How much have you heard about this problem? (READ CODES 1-4)

 
Apr
1999
Mar
199911
Dec
199811
Aug
1998
Nothing
2%
3%
8%
9%
Very little
6
11
13
16
Some
20
30
40
29
A lot
72
56
39
45
Don't know
*
 
 
*
Refused
 
 
 
*

Analysis Q2. Heard About Y2K

In Q2, there has been a remarkable increase in how much people have heard about Y2K since Aug. '98. "A lot" response has gone from a 45% minority to a 72% "consensus" (defined as 67%+). "Some+a lot" is up to 92%, compared with 74% for the earlier survey. The Gallup results of Dec. '98 seem anomalous. One explanation is that in the two ATI surveys the "have heard about" question, Q2, was asked just after the problem was defined and before any mention of its seriousness, whereas in Gallup the Q2 question followed two questions on seriousness. A significant fraction of respondents try to make it clear that their judgment on a weighty topic like the seriousness of Y2K is just a top-of-the-head comment. The natural and easy way that many people find to do that is to drop down a category or two in response to the later question, "how much have you heard about Y2K?" People can be spooked into refraining from saying they know much about anything. (See Locating Consensus for Democracy, p. 48 on "Knowledge Questions.) This explanation applies to the March 1999 results as well and, if correct, would align them closer to the April 1999 results.

Demographic Highlights. The poverty Y2K information gap is closing. While in Aug. '98, 31% of the poor and 62% of the affluent knew a lot about Y2K, now it is 62% and 83%, respectively. The gap shrank from 31% to 21%. As we saw in the demographic highlights of Q1, the poverty computer-positive gap is widening (from 19% to 28%). In both cases the poor have become more aware and knowledgeable, but they are increasingly convinced that computers are not going to help them as much as they help the affluent. They may well be right about that. They also believe that they are less able to protect themselves from Y2K problems, as we will see.

Significant demographic deviations from average occur with age, gender, education, and income. Those saying they know a lot about Y2K: (1) are older: 30+ yrs (74%) vs. -30yrs (66%); (2) more men (75%) than women (69%) and (3) increase with education: HS or less (62%), some college (72%); college grad and postgrad (85%). More likely to know a lot about Y2K are the affluent (83%), compared to the mid-income (71%) and poor (62%). It is interesting that the better educated, higher income folks, i.e. the "elite", are more positive about computers and know more about Y2K than others, but with age the relationship runs the opposite way: older people know more about Y2K and at the same time are more computer negative.

Master Questionnaire Q3, Q4

Q3.  (Asked of those saying they know "alot.")  Would you consider yourself an "expert" in this problem?

 
Apr
1999
Aug
1998
Yes
5.6%
4.7%
No/Not Asked
94.4
95

Q4.  (If "expert")  Is your expertise in

Ways of coping with Y2K
2.4%
How computers and software handle dates
2.2
Likely consequences and effects of Y2K
2.0
Other (VOL)
1.0
DK/Not asked
94*

* Some gave multiple responses

Analysis Q3, Q4 Experts on Y2K

Of the 72% who said they had heard "a lot" about Y2K in Q2, 5.6% said in Q3 they were "experts in it", up from 4.7% in Aug. '98. Anticipating that this was an interesting minority group to explore, a new question, Q4, was designed. Respondents were asked what their expertise was, with three read responses (multiple mentions accepted). They chose as follows: "ways of coping with Y2K," 2.4%; "how computers and software handle dates", 2.2%; and likely consequences and effects of Y2K, 2.0%. With a 95% confidence factor this translates into four population groups, small percentages, but still millions of people. If they could be tapped, the four groups constitute sizable people resources as follows:

Table 2
Number of People
 
(with 95+% certainty)
   
Total Experts*
8,360,000 to 14,040,000
Ways of Coping
2,900,000 to 6,700,000
How handle dates
2,580,000 to 6,220,000
Y2K Consequences
2,260,000 to 5,740,000

* Some gave multiple responses

Demographic Highlights, Q4 These self-described experts are statistically rare people, but an enormous number who are twice as likely to be found in the suburbs as in urban areas and four times as likely to be found in the suburbs as in rural areas. They are (1) almost twice as likely to be men as women and Independents as Democrats (Republicans are between the two); (2) are two or three times more likely to have incomes over $50,000 than under; (3) three or four times more likely to have a college or postgrad degree, to use the internet, and to be computer-positive; and (4) five times more likely to be affluent than poor.

Master Questionnaire Q5-9

 
Apr
1999
Aug
1998
1
15%
10%
2
33
18
3
36
34
4
8
19
5
6
17
Average
2.6
3.2
DK/Refused
2
3

Q6. NOT ASKED


Q7. NOT ASKED


Q8. There is wide agreement among experts that fixing Y2K is very expensive. It is costing many billions. Still, some experts think that it is not a serious problem because most computers will be fixed by the end of this year — and few people will be seriously affected by the few computers that are not.

Other experts on Y2K think that it is one of the MOST SERIOUS problems the modern world has ever faced. They say the final bill for Y2K will be over a trillion dollars. More important, they say there are not nearly enough qualified technicians to fix all the problems or could be trained to fix them in time to be ready for the new millennium.

"A" Sample: They believe there will be intermittent power black-outs, fuel shortages, and a scarcity of some consumer products peaking in the dead of winter that will continue in large regions of the country for months and years. There will be widespread economic disruption, possibly a collapse of law and order, and a deep decade-long, probably world-wide depression.

"B" Sample: They believe the economy will be disrupted along with lengthy shut-downs of electricity supplies and major industries. There will be widespread dislocation and possibly chaos, even a collapse of law and order at all levels of government that could last for many years.

I'd like to ask your reaction to hearing this. How likely do you think things will develop in this extremely serious way? Would it be…

 
QA8
QB8
bias:
economic breakdown
social chaos
Very likely
11%
9%
Somewhat likely
46
47
Not at all likely
43
42
DK/Refused
1
1

Q9. I am going to ask a question that I asked before: How serious do YOU think the Y2K problem is going to turn out to be, on a scale of one-to-five, where ONE means you think it will be a not-at-all serious problem and FIVE means that you agree with the experts' EXTREMELY SERIOUS view that I just asked you about. You can use any number between one and five. The bigger the number, the more serious of a problem you think it will be.

 
Apr
1999
Initial Rating
Aug
1998
12
Initial Rating
1
15%
15%
10%
10%
2
33
33
18
18
3
35
36
34
34
4
8
19
19
19
5
6
17
17
17
Average
2.6
2.6
2.9
3.2
DK/Refused
*
2
*
3

Notation used: "A" before question number means "A" Sample question. "B" before question number means "B" Sample question. A or B, etc. following question number, as in Q10A, Q10B or QA30A, QA30B denotes a followup question.


Analysis, Q5, Q8, Q9 Seriousness of Y2K

Before giving any information on Y2K beyond the bare bones description of Q2, "how serious Y2K is likely to be", Q5, is asked identically in Aug. '98 and Apr. '99 with responses on a 1 to 5 numerical scale. Considering Y2K, there has been a remarkable shift towards "less serious". People, now a lot more aware of Y2K than people 8 months ago (and as we will see later in this Report, doing more and thinking more about Y2K than they were 8 months ago) have shifted downward on the seriousness scale. On a collapsed scale, only 28% thought the Y2K problem a 1 or a 2 (not serious) earlier, now it's 48%. At the high end, 36% thought it was a 4 or 5 (serious) 8 months ago, as compared to only % now.

The earlier (ATI #30) question series Q6-Q8 gave three scenarios on Y2K, not-at-all serious, serious, and extremely-serious, and asked people how likely they thought each was. This amount of material had proven to be a bit of a burden on respondents' attention span. Since we were determined to have even more questions in the new survey than the old, we accomplished this in part in the new survey by collapsing all three scenarios into a single question Q8, consisting of a short, but fair description of a not-serious scenario followed by a lengthy, detailed description of an extremely serious scenario. The A sample description is slightly slanted toward economic breakdown, the B sample toward social chaos. The slant turns out to be so slight that the difference in response is negligible and the two samples can be combined for purposes of response statistics. The Q8 question itself only asked about the likelihood of the extremely-serious scenario.

By cross-tabbing the Q8 and Q9 responses, we found that 64% of those who responded that the extremely-serious scenario of Q8 was "very likely", did place themselves at 4 or 5 on the experts' scale in Q9. "Extremely serious" has a different and negative connotation, so that not everyone saying "very likely" need consider Y2K "extremely serious", though clearly many do. Perhaps it is harder to admit to taking an extreme negative position on the likelihood of a serious negative outcome of an issue than it is to merely say it is very likely. This effect was also visible in the Q6-Q9 series of ATI #30, Aug., '98.

Between Q5 and a second asking of Q5, Q9, in both the earlier and the new survey, more information on Y2K was given. (This is known as a "debate format" question-set; see Locating Consensus for Democracy, pp. 53-58). In both surveys in the second asking, Q9, the respondents were asked to rate themselves on the experts' scale, that is if they responded "5" it meant that they agreed with the experts who took the extremely-serious view. There was a considerable drop on the numerical self-rating scale in the Aug. '98 survey but a tiny increase in Apr. '99. Apparently the experts views of extremely serious, were beyond what many people were ready to believe in Aug. '98, so when asked to rate themselves on the experts scale, respondents tended to drop down. This effect was probably present in Apr. ¢ 99 too. But in the new survey a new factor was the effort to push respondents into going up on the seriousness scale by the preponderance of the information given to the extremely-serious expert view. There was virtually no change in response statistics between the initial and second asking. This may seem counter-intuitive, but ATI has found that frequently when people really know what they want, they dig in their heels on pushy questions, and to some degree revolt against the bias they perceive in the interviewer's information.

Demographic Highlights. In the new survey, liberals are roughly twice as likely to answer "extremely serious" in Q5 as moderates or conservatives. The poor are almost four times as likely to rate Y2K extremely-serious as are the affluent. In Q8, the two groups significantly more assured than others that the extremely-serious Y2K scenario would be less likely were surprisingly (1) the Northeast as compared to all other regions of the country and (2) men with respect to women. Although the net change on the seriousness scale between Q5 and Q9 is very small (less than 4%), the gross change is more substantial: 18% go higher or lower on the scale and 82% keep the same rating when re-asked in Q9. This effect, called "dynamic equilibrium" in Locating Consensus for Democracy (see p. 411), is fairly common in "debate format" question-sets.

Master Questionnaire Q10
Let's go into this a little more:

For each of the following, please tell me whether that is something you probably will or WILL NOT do in order to protect yourself against Y2K problems.

Rank Ordered by Percent "Probably Will Do"
 
Probably Will Do
Probably Won’t Do
DK/Ref
Q10A. Obtain special confirmation or documentation ofyour bank balances, retirement funds or other financial records 
 
 
 
April 1999
60%
37
3
March 199911
66%
33
2
December 199811
65%
33
2
Q10B.  Avoid traveling on airplanes on or    around January one, two thousand.
 
 
 
April 1999
54%
41
5
March 199911
54%
44
2
December 199811
47%
50
3
QB10C. Withdraw some or all of your money from the bank.
 
 
 
April 1999
32%
65
2
March 199911
30%
70
-
December 199811
31%
66
3
QA10C. Withdraw all your money from the bank.
 
 
 
April 1999
12%
84
4
March 199911
15%
84
1
December 199811
16%
82
2

Analysis Q10. Avoiding Y2K dangers

Later in both ATI surveys we ask many questions about how the respondent, facing Y2K, might behave, but they are questions that focus on what respondents might do to help themselves and groups of others, both cooperatively and competitively. With a different viewpoint, Gallup, in Dec. '98 and March ‘99, asked specifically how the potential turmoil of Y2K might get respondents to change their normal behavior in order to reduce risk to themselves individually. As a check on the comparability of the two different approaches, we included in this survey, Q10, verbatim four of the seven Gallup questions of this type. Especially in view of problems mentioned in the next paragraph, the agreement is remarkably good. For example, ranked by "probably would do", the four finished in the same rank order in both the Gallup surveys and in ATI #31.

There were two interesting but minor wording problems uncovered. Q10B is worded so that persons who do little or no air travel (or for any reason not related to Y2K know they would not be traveling by air around Jan 1, 2000), can be confused as to how to answer this question. Some feel faced with the dilemma posed by the classic "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Also the Gallup version of QB10C ("withdraw a large amount of cash") does not handle well the fact that this question has to mean different things to different people. A large amount of cash for some is $500, for others it is $50,000. What does "large" mean in this question? The results of the Gallup and ATI versions of QB10C being almost identical, suggests that people are sensible and do interpret "large" to mean "large for me".

Majorities now say in Q10A, Q10B that they plan not to travel by plane (54%) and plan to get their financial records in order (60%), but not that they will take some of their money out of the bank (32%), let alone all of it (12%). Still if 12% of the people were to show up at the bank to take out their money, there would be a real liquidity problem. The Fed should certainly be prepared for this.

Q10 ends Part 1, "the basics", with a fitting question on individual actions. The agreement here with Gallup questions further validates ATI trend-tracking results coming up in Part 2 and the new questions of Part 3.

Demographic Highlight. Conservatives, moderates, those under 49yrs, or with income $25-50k, all reach consensus levels (67+%) of agreeing they probably will confirm financial records, Q10A.

PART 2. Trust, Responsibility, What You Can Do, and Policy Preferences
(Four Large, Trend-Oriented Batteries)

Part 2 is dedicated to trend-tracking, a very important method for surveying the unique Y2K issue with its relatively-short, non-postponable duration. As demonstrated in Locating Consensus for Democracy (See "battery" on p. 409), the most cost/effective way to simultaneously track multiple trends is by the use of the battery, where the questions are asked as items in the same frame. Part 2 is simply a set of four large batteries, asked with both frame and most items identical in both the Aug. '98 and Apr. '99 surveys. The codes for designating each of the four are: TRUST, RESPONS, YOUDO, PROPS. In the earlier survey in order to confirm that question wording for split-sample questions was not contaminating answers, in addition to other precautions for avoiding contamination, we had a number of questions where the items were identical in both half-samples. That worked very well.

The results in the earlier survey were within sampling errors for not only the full-sample questions, but also very close for any two half-sampled items that were "almost identical", and reasonably close for the many that were similar. Where there are significant differences between responses to two very similar half-sample questions, light is shed on how the collective mind thinks. We decided to both take the risk of half-sampling every item in the four batteries and to delete some similar items in TRUST which contributed little more to our understanding of findings. The gamble paid off. With only one more item in the total for all four batteries in the new survey, we were able to add eight new items, yielding more useful data while still holding the attention of the respondents. We were also able to keep the same question numbers for the same items in all batteries.

Master Questionnaire Q11-16

In the coming months, you will probably hear a lot more about Y2K. I am going to read a list of people and ask you to think about this: If you happened to see or hear that person discussing Y2K issues, how much would you be inclined to trust what he or she said about this issue? If you’ve never heard of a person, just let me know and we’ll move on to the next one. The [first/next] is: _______________. How much would you trust ________ on Y2K?

Rank-Ordered by Percent "A Lot/Some
 
A Lot/
Some
A Lot
Some
Hardly
None
Not Heard of
DK/
Ref
QA15. A computer expert working for a large corporation with years of experience including programming many kinds of old computers -- computers that worked fine for years but now have millennium bugs
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
86%
39
48
9
4
1
1
August 1998
89%
51
38
9
*
*
1
QB13. A computer expert working for a large corporation 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
83%
30
53
11
4
1
1
August 1998
85%
36
49
10
2
1
2
QA. Bill Gates, head of Microsoft
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
77%
35
42
14
4
4
1
August 1998
80%
42
38
14
2
4
1
QB15. An expert in handling disasters 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
76%
21
55
17
4
1
1
August 1998
63%
20
44
28
7
1
1
QA13. A computer expert working for the federal government
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
72%
20
52
20
7
*
*
August 1998
72%
22
50
21
4
1
1
QB16. Your local bank manager 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
72%
24
47
20
6
1
1
August 1998
66%
17
49
23
7
2
2
QA16. An expert in why people in a disaster sometimes cooperate and sometimes do not.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
67%
9
58
24
6
1
3
August 1998
62%
12
50
27
5
2
3
QB14. A leader of a multi-billion dollar financial services company
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
64%
16
48
25
8
2
2
August 1998
61%
16
45
28
8
1
2
QA12. Former astronaut and Senator, John Glenn
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
63%
15
48
25
8
2
1
QB12. Former President George Bush 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
62%
18
44
29
7
*
1
August 1998
61%
18
42
19
8
1
2
QA11. Bill Clinton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
49%
12
37
32
18
--
1
August 1998
54%
14
39
33
11
1
1
QB11. Al Gore
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
47%
10
37
33
17
1
1
August 1998
49%
12
37
36
10
2
2

Analysis Q11-16 TRUST -- in 12 individuals and organizations, 11 repeats from earlier poll

Trust has changed little between polls. Ranked on trust "a lot+some", the 11 items (individuals and organizations) tested in both, finished in almost the same rank order eight months apart. This consistency is a common phenomenon in polling using batteries with many items the same over a period of months and longer. It appears in all four batteries of these two polls, as shown in Figure 1. This impressive phenomenon is inexplicable and mysterious.

The most trusted in the new survey are various computer experts, with trust ranging from 72% to 86%, down a few points from the earlier poll. Disaster experts and business leaders remain in a middle group, with trust ranging from 64% to 72%. Politicians remain least trusted as a group in the range 47-63%. with Gore down 2% to 47%, Clinton down 5% to 49%, and Bush (Sr) up 1% to 62%. The preceding numbers are for trust "a lot+some". All the numbers for "a lot" alone are small compared to "a lot+some" but the rank order is almost the same from survey to survey for either one (See Figure 1). The distinction made here between those in the high, middle, and low groups are the same, whether we use the measuring rod of "a lot" or "a lot+some" and whether we are talking about the old survey or the new.

Clinton's drop may be remnant radiation eight months after the big bang. The Aug. '98 poll was completed one week before Clinton's first public expression of regret for his behavior with Monica. These two polls then are able to provide a unique view of how the public handles the big question of the year. Now that we have learned so much about Clinton's sordid private life and the dust has settled on the impeachment trial, will the public trust the President on public issues? That ATI #30 and #31 would be able to answer that question was, of course, totally unanticipated since it depended on a fortuitous combination of two polls containing a trust question battery with the same frame in each with Clinton and other top political leaders as items in both, one poll just before the big bang and one a few months after the impeachment vote. On a tough issue like Y2K where most political leaders try to avoid a definite stand, trust in Clinton is definitely down; Al Gore carries a little of the residual tar too. Good benchmarks here are Bush (Sr.) up a little and John Glenn, brought into the battery in the new survey for the first time when Newt Gingrich dropped from the scene. Glenn is trusted on Y2K by 63%, for a high among all the politicians we have tested in TRUST in the two surveys. With no one else yet playing the full leadership role Gingrich once did, we had thought that John Glenn, highly regarded former Senator and former astronaut, might be a good role-model comparison. In that role he serves well and probably at 63% scores as high as any politician could have in this battery. Because of the stability of all the TRUST rankings, we can conclude that the earlier results for "former presidential candidate, Ross Perot", "consumer activist, Ralph Nader," and "the US military" if asked today would still be found at their Aug. '98 rank, or one or two points away.

Demographic Highlights, TRUST.

Both Republicans and conservatives have significantly greater trust of Bill Gates on Y2K than Democrats and liberals. These political groups divide in the opposite way with Democrats and liberals more trusting of "computer experts working for a large corporation" or "an expert in handling disasters." Party and ideological groups also split the expected way on the specific politicians. Young people (18-29), people whose lives have been made better by computers (comp.pos.) and college graduates have more trust in "computer experts working for a large corporation with years of experience including programming many kinds of old computers -- computers that worked fine for many years but now have millenium bugs". These same groups have statistically more trust in Bill Gates on Y2K. People who do not use the internet have more trust in Al Gore and in George Bush (Sr) on Y2K. People who have kids under 18 have more trust in George Bush (Sr) on Y2K.

Master Questionnaire Q19-24

If Y2K turns out to be a big disaster, who do you think should be held responsible for that disaster? I am going to read the names of some people and organizations. For each one, please tell me how much RESPONSIBILITY you think that person or organization would have for a Y2K disaster: A lot, some, or none? After each item, if respondent indicated that individual bore any responsibility at all they were asked two follow-up questions: "Should he/they be held accountable?13" and "Should he/they be held legally liable?14"

Rank-Ordered by Percent "A Lot/Some"
  A Lot/
Some
A Lot Some None Dep. DK/
Ref
Acct
able
Liable
QA21. Computer companies that ignored the Y2K problem for years.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
93%
71
22
6
*
*
78
64
August 1998
94%
70
24
5
1
1
79
61
QB21. Computer companies
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
91%
60
31
7
1
1
70
51
August 1998
89%
54
35
10
*
1
66
44
QA20. Leaders of large corporations, banks, electric utilities, etc.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
86%
47
39
13
1
1
66
49
August 1998
77%
40
37
21
1
1
59
42
QA24. Political leaders who were more concerned with politics as usual than with solving problems that are important to everybody.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
85%
45
40
14
--
1
61
49
QA23. The Federal Reserve Board, which oversees our banks.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
83%
50
33
15
*
1
66
52
August 1998
75%
38
37
24
1
1
56
41
QB23. The SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose job is to hold corporations accountable to stockholders and the public.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
82%
38
43
13
1
2
60
42
August 1998
75%
36
39
22
1
3
54
36
QB24. Corporate leaders who conducted business as usual or focused on financial dealings, mergers and acquisitions instead of concentrating on solving our real problems.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
81%
39
42
16
1
2
58
42
QB20. The U. S. Congress
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
81%
40
41
16
1
2
59
36
August 1998
67%
29
38
32
--
1
45
25
QA19. Bill Clinton. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
69%
29
39
29
*
2
38
22
August 1998
59%
23
36
39
1
1
35
17
QA22. The media, which did not make the situation, clear enough to viewers and readers. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
66%
24
42
33
--
2
34
19
August 1998
65%
25
41
33
1
*
39
18
QB22. Television, which focused on entertainment and ratings, rather than real news.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
56%
22
34
42
*
2
31
20
August 1998
51%
20
31
48
1
1
28
15
QB19. Al Gore.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
40%
12
28
53
1
5
23
12
August 1998
34%
10
23
61
1
4
18
10

Analysis, Q19-Q24. RESPONS-- 12 items (organizations and individuals), 10 repeat earlier poll

In almost every one of the 10 cases asked in both polls, percentages holding individuals and organizations responsible, accountable, and legally liable are, for all three, higher in the new poll. The public is in a process of bringing Y2K responsibility into focus. Recent acts like the state of Texas "protecting" Texas corporations by granting them immunity from Y2K liability, may be making a mistake. Such action may actually result in business leaving Texas corporations and going to corporations in other states which have not reduced corporate liability on Y2K matters.

Biggest increases for "a lot+some" responsibility: the Congress up 14% to 81%; Clinton up 10% to 69%; leaders of large corporations up 9% to 86%; the Fed up 8% to 83%, SEC up 7% to 82%; Gore up 6% to 40%; television up 5% to 56%.

Biggest increases for accountable: the Congress up 14% to 59%; the Fed up 10% to 66%; leaders of large corporations... up 7% to 66%; SEC up 6% to 66%; Al Gore up 5% to 23%; computer companies up 4% to 70%; Clinton up 3% to 38%; TV up 3% to 31%.

Biggest increases for legally liable: the US Congress up 11% to 36%, the Fed up 11% to 52%; computer companies up 7% to 51%, leaders of large corporations... up 7% to 49%; SEC up 6% to 42%, Clinton up 5% to 22%; TV up 5% to 20%

Top Ranking Accountable, Now at consensus-levels: computer companies that ignored the Y2K problem for years (79%) and computer companies (70%). Majorities: leaders of large corporations..., 66%; the Fed, 66%; the SEC 60%, the Congress, 59%.

Top Ranking legally liable, Now majorities: Computer companies 51%, those that ignored the Y2K problem for years, 64%.

Two new items in this battery describe generic politicians (QA24) and government leaders (QB24) who are NOT working in the public interest. The former are considered more responsible, accountable, and legally liable than specified politicians and the latter less responsible, accountable, and legally liable than computer business leaders and more responsible, accountable, and legally liable than media business leaders. But negatively-described as they are, both political and government leaders rank high for responsibility and produce majorities holding them accountable. One interpretation for flesh and blood political leaders being held less responsible, less accountable, and less legally liable than a negatively described generic political leader is that the people are not yet ready to attach attitudes about generic politicians to flesh and blood politicians. The same might be said of attitudes about generic corporate leaders compared to real media organizations. But that connection could occur in the future. This is not good news for our 1999-2000 crop of political leaders, whom the public is not fingering as long as the seriousness of Y2K is not yet known.

Demographic Highlights. Because of the importance of tracking the responsibility, accountability, and legal liability issue for Y2K, we have performed a lengthy analysis that tracks, as far as possible, the trends in the demographic subgroups that are most significantly different from the average of the sample. The analysis, given in Table 3 in the Appendix, shows some fascinating and perhaps unexpected patterns. The questions chosen for comparing against all other results, using a cross-tabulation or correlation, such as "computer positive", "knows a lot about Y2K", "suburban, urban, or rural", "evangelical/ fundamentalist", and many others, defines groups that, contrary to our expectation, do not appear more frequently as deviating significantly from the sample average than the traditional demographic sub-groups. Moreover, most but not all subgroups that differ significantly from the sample average can be tracked back to the earlier survey as also differing significantly and in roughly about the same amount from the earlier sample average for each question asked identically in both surveys. There is a great deal that people who are intrigued by polls may find interesting in Table 3.

Master Questionnaire Q27-30

I’m going to read a few things that people can do that might help solve the Y2K problem. For each one, please tell me if you have ever done that activity. (IF HAVE NOT DONE, ASK:) Would you consider doing something like that, or would you probably never do anything like that?

Rank-Ordered by Percent "Have Done/Consider", except for QA 30 at end.
 
Done/
Consider
Have Done
Would Consider
Never Consider
DK/
Ref
QA28. Ask a local bank manager, insurance carrier, mutual fund or financial advisor what steps they are taking to protect your assets and property.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
72%
26
46
25
3
August 1998
74%
13
61
22
4
QA30 ranks here, can be found at end.
 
 
 
 
 
QB28. Ask your electric utility or water company, if it can assure uninterrupted consumer service in the year two thousand.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
64%
10
54
32
4
August 1998
63%
4
59
33
4
QA29. Purchase emergency supplies, generators, batteries, canned food, or medical kits to deal with a disaster caused by Y2K.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
58%
19
39
39
3
August 1998
49%
10
39
46
4
QA27. Ask a local or state official what community-wide assessments have been made or plans prepared for Y2K.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
51%
12
39
45
3
August 1998
43%
5
48
43
5
QB27. Ask your Congress person, what Congress is recommending at the federal government level for Y2K.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
44%
3
41
50
5
August 1998
43%
3
40
52
5
QB30. Volunteer in your local community to join in or organize a Citizen’s Committee on Y2K to work with local officials and media.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
38%
2
36
57
5
August 1998
39%
2
37
57
4
QB29. Purchase a home system offering self-reliant power supplies such as solar panels, cell phones, and two-way radios – to deal with a disaster caused by Y2K.
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
37%
8
29
59
4
August 1998
36%
8
28
58
6
QA30A. Go to a meeting open to the public in your community with local officials and Y2K experts who will discuss what is being done or could be done to reduce the negative impact of Y2K on our lives and where everybody can hear the ideas of the public on Y2K mitigation. 
 
 
 
 
 
April 1999
66%
7
59
33
2
 
Yes
All Other
 
 
 
[If "have done" in QA30A]
QA30B. Did you make a comment or ask a question at that meeting?
51%
49
 
 
 
[If "would consider" in QA30A]
QA30C. If you had an opportunity and were encouraged to speak, would you make a comment or ask a question at such a meeting?
77%
23
 
 
 

Analysis Q27-30 YOUDO --

Three questions: "Have you done", "Would you consider doing", or "Would you never do anything like that" on 8 activities that might help solve the Y2K problem. One is new. Among the seven asked in both surveys:

Large increases in "have done or would consider": purchase emergency supplies... up 9% to 58%; ask a local or state official... up 8% to 51%. Less than one or two point changes in five other cases.

There are now majorities saying that they would consider or have done five of eight activities including two not majorities in Aug. '98 and one new one.

Large increases in "have done": ask a local bank manager... up 13% to 26%; purchase emergency supplies... up 9% to 19%; ask your electric utility... up 6% to 10%; ask a local or state official... up 8% to 19%.

Large increases in "would consider": none

The new item, QA30A, ranks first in "would consider" and second in "have done or would consider" and will be discussed in Part 3, under Public Meetings.

A general principle on how the public responds to these questions can be summarized as follows:

People are more likely to have done or would consider doing things that amount to asking something of someone and are more likely to do that if the person is closer geographically or closer on the hierarchical ladder. Volunteering for community action and more intensive preparation for Y2K is less appealing and scores lowest, but still represents an impressive response of over 3 or 4 million who have done each of these things and enormous numbers, 70 to 80 million, including those who still would consider doing them.

The persistency of place in rank order, mentioned earlier for all four batteries of Part 2, is most remarkable in YOUDO. See Figure 1.

Master Questionnaire Q33-38

Because Y2K appears to many as a disaster in the making, people may come forward and make propositions about what can be done to make things better. I will read some of the propositions you might hear. For each one, please tell me if you agree or disagree with it? (IF AGREE/DISAGREE, ASK:) Would that be STRONGLY agree/disagree or just SOMEWHAT agree/disagree?

Rank-Ordered by Percent Strongly Agree
 
Str. Agree
Smwt Agree
Neith/DK
Smwt Dis
Str Dis
Collapsed
Agree
Dis
QA33. The Securities and Exchange Commission and bank regulators, like the Federal Reserve Board, should require full disclosure to the public by all corporations and banks on their Y2K progress.
             
April 1999
66% 22 1 6 3 89% 10
QB38. Y2K induced outages, like electric power brown-outs, transportation failures, or other shortages probably will occur only regionally and for a few days at a time in ways that vary over different parts of the country. Since this is a lot like bad weather, radio and TV weather channels, including portable all-hazards weather radio, should be required to inform the public by immediately releasing government Y2K emergency updates.
             
April 1999
66% 22 2 6 4 88% 10
QA35. We should reshape the laws governing our telecommunications industry to assure that our radio, television, the Internet, and all other mass media operate in the public interest and are required to inform the public fully about such issues as Y2K.
             
April 1999
56% 29 2 8 6 84% 14
August 1998
54% 26 3 9 7 80% 17
QA37. Some arm of government, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, should furnish regular Y2K Preparedness Updates that radio and TV channels must carry that give accurate news on the ability of government, businesses, hospitals and other institutions to deliver us needed goods and services and that will advise people on what we should do about Y2K 
             
April 1999
55% 31 2 7 5 86% 12
QB33. Simpler, more decentralized back-up systems for production, accounting, and communications, should be maintained so that your community can retain more options and be more self-reliant.
             
April 1999
52% 35 2 5 4 88% 10
August 1998
48% 41 3 6 2 89% 8
QA38. The modern world has become too dependent on computers and other complex technologies.
             
April 1999
52% 21 * 13 14 73% 27
August 1998
48% 25 2 12 14 72% 26
QA34. Companies which innovate computer technologies should prepare voluntary social impact assessments and publish them, so that the public can understand the tradeoffs in such new technologies before they become widespread and displace existing systems.
             
April 1999
46% 40 2 8 4 86% 12
August 1998
45% 35 4 8 7 80% 16
QB34. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment used to evaluate large-scale technological innovations for their social impact and release results to congress and the public. This office was abolished in 1996, but the Y2k problem shows that this was a mistake. The office should be reinstated.
             
April 1999
29% 32 8 15 15 61% 31
August 1998
28% 33 9 17 13 61% 29
QB36. We should beef up funding of Public Broadcasting and other educational TV and radio networks to provide more programming in the public interest supported by a tax on commercial broadcasting to be used only for this purpose.
             
April 1999
29% 29 3 14 24 57% 39
August 1998
28% 30 4 18 21 58% 38
QB35. We can no longer only rely on private enterprises making profit-driven market decisions ABOUT technological innovations that change the basic fabric of our lives.
             
April 1999
28% 32 6 19 15 60% 34
August 1998
24% 39 4 18 16 63% 34
QA36. The government should keep its hands off the technological revolution that is improving our standard of living in so many ways.
             
April 1999
26% 28 4 25 17 54% 42
August 1998
29% 30 4 22 16 58% 38
QB37. The government should keep its hands off the technological revolution that is improving our standard of living in so many ways. That is much more beneficial and important to us than the cost of whatever damage Y2K may do. 
             
April 1999
24% 30 5 24 18 53% 42

Analysis Q33-38 PROPS: Twelve proposals for mitigating Y2K, 8 the same, 4 new.

The PROPS battery presents the most startling and potentially profound results of this Report. There are three guiding principles that for a long time have been at the core of what America is about. Practically our "state religion", they are (1) the belief in the value of the progress of technology to bring happiness to an ever larger number of people, (2) the faith in the virtue of free markets to satisfy the product, service, and information needs of an ever larger number of people, and (3) limiting government interventions that curb individual freedoms. This battery implies that the love affair of the American people is cooling with technology, free markets, limited government, and rights without responsibilities.

The 10 out of 12 proposals that are pro-active in this PROPS battery call for big changes, generally way outside the envelope of other polls. They require increasing government intervention, including new taxes, new laws, restrictions on businesses, and enormous social change. All ten are supported by majorities. Using "collapsed agree", seven have consensus-level support.

The only two that are conservative in the tradition of government non-interference, are ranked last in support. Only small majorities agree: QA36, (54% agree) "The government should be keep its hands off the technological revolution that is improving our standard of living in so many ways" and QB37, (53% agree) the same as QA36 with the added information: "That is much more beneficial and important to us than the cost of whatever damage Y2K may do". QB37 was a new question trying to boost support for this conservative view. The push backfired. QB37 finished dead last.

Three of the four new proposals were untested ideas for government actions to mitigate Y2K problems that analyzing the PROPS battery in the previous survey suggested would be highly supported. They are indeed highly supported: QA33 (89% agree), QB38 (88% agree), and QA37 (86% agree). The fourth, QB37, was introduced in an effort to include wording that would increase the low ranking support for the conservative Q37 in ATI #30, that as mentioned above, backfired.

Understand one important caveat, which is also an opportunity to make an amazing discovery. The battery preamble (or frame) for PROPS says "Y2K appears to many as a disaster in the making." This is traditionally thought by pollsters to push people to seek responses that avert a disaster. Also there is little information in the preamble about how these propositions would be realized. This may bias people to favor pro-active responses. It is also possible that large support for pro-active policies of this kind indicates that underneath all the acceptable, conservative political rhetoric and conventional wisdom, the public is actually beginning to abandon some of the tenets of the "state religion".

It would be very valuable to ask these same questions in a neutral atmosphere and balanced by as realistic as possible ways that these pro-active proposals could be achieved (require constitutional amendments for some, acts of Congress for others). Presenting such means would probably reduce support. It is true that it is hard to get people to agree to any proposition that requires an amendment to the Constitution. But who knows what might be found? Who wants to find out? Which political party would run with any of these proposals? Another way to look at the situation is what a great opportunity it might be for a pollster to take a risk with a good chance of coming up with a historically significant poll finding.

It should be noted that the conservative viewpoint on a novel issue like Y2K is essentially laissez-faire: the view that the government should do little or nothing, except perhaps repeal some legislation or revoke some policy that is pro-active and relevant to the issue. This helps explain why there are ten pro-active proposal propositions and only two conservative propositions. If a pro-active proposal could be fairly worded to make clear how it would be implemented it could be matched head-to-head with the "take no action" conservative proposal. There is one pro-active proposition of this nature, QB34. Although it did not score near the top in the 12 proposals (it ranked 8th), we are considering including a match-up question in the next Y2K survey, perhaps like this:

QX. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) used to evaluate large-scale technological innovations for their social impact and release results to Congress and the public. This office was abolished in 1996. Which of these two proposals is closer to what you believe:

The Y2K problem shows that abolishing OTA was a mistake. The office should be reinstated.

OR

The office was abolished because only private enterprise, not the government, should play a lead role in evaluating the impact of technological innovations on our society. The OTA should not be reinstated.

Of course, the data on PROPS can also be interpreted to mean that if Y2K is a big disaster, these pro-active policies will be clearly supported by large majorities thereafter. Historically, lack of responsibility and leadership by the private sector has frequently led to popular demand for government to step in.

PART 3. The New Questions

The new questions asked in this survey were based on the premise that Y2K will be an extremely serious, unavoidable disaster according to a variety of knowledgeable and credible people, generally considered reliable. If such people were to a large degree less known or believed, less reliable, less credible, or less knowledgeable, so that almost nobody would be worried about Y2K, then Y2K would not be among top national problems, and this survey would be of no interest. The real possibility of a potential disaster is why the survey sponsors, design teams, and advisors have put the time, energy, and funds into pursuing this topic. That is why the new questions are of two types: (1) those pushing hard on how far people will go if it might be necessary to avoid this disaster, and (2) things that the government might do to better prevent, prepare for, or mitigate the disaster.

We have already seen that the American people are more knowledgeably pursuing certain reasonable courses for understanding the possible and probable effects of Y2K and of mitigating the disaster. The results of all the new questions are encouraging.

Part 3 questions focus even more specifically on what the government might do before the year 2000 that, as the Y2K situation, however confusing, precarious, or perilous it may turn out to be (or not to be) would improve the trust, cooperation, and confidence of and between both groups, the general public and government officials. Some of the ways this might be done were included as items in the four major batteries and appeared earlier in Part 2. Part 3 includes separate new question sets, Q17-18, Q25-26, Q30-32

Master Questionnaire Q17-18

I would like to get your reaction to some different points of view that could be important if Y2K turns out to be a big disaster. Please tell me if you agree or disagree with each of the following statements. (IF AGREE/DISAGREE, ASK:) Would that be STRONGLY agree/disagree or just SOMEWHAT agree/disagree? The first is __________.

Rank-Ordered by Percent Strongly Agree
 
Str
Agr
Smwt
Agr
Neith
Ag/Dis
Smwt
Dis
Str
Dis
DK/
Ref
Collapse
Agr
Dis
Q17B.  Government and business leaders who were aware of the problem but failed to exercise LEADERSHIP in getting it fixed are responsible for it and should be held accountable.  That means they must make a FULL DISCLOSURE of how they handled the Y2K problem. 
53%
24
3
10
9
1
77%
19
Q17A.  Whoever played a part in CAUSING the Y2K problem is responsible for it and should be held accountable.   That means they must make a FULL DISCLOSURE of how they handled the Y2K problem.
39%
23
3
17
16
2
62%
33
Q18A.  The situation is so COMPLEX and so many have played a role in causing or failing to fix the problem, that no one and no group should be hald responsible for the consequences
24%
26
4
21
23
2
50%
44
Q18B.  Because we are all EQUALLY to blame, no one and no group should be held responsible for the consequences.
24%
23
3
19
28
2
48%
48

Analysis Q17-18, More on Responsibility and Accountability

This is a small battery of four items which raise the questions of responsibility and accountability in a more general way than the immediately following questions, Q19-Q24 (dubbed the RESPONS battery). It clearly shows that there is consensus (77%) in Q17B to hold "government and business leaders who were aware of the problem but failed to exercise LEADERSHIP in getting it fixed" both responsible and accountable, and in Q17A a majority (62%) holding that "whoever played a part in CAUSING the Y2K problem" is responsible and should be held accountable.

        Q18 was created to test two reasons why people might believe that "no one and no group should be held responsible for the consequences" of Y2K; one, Q18A, because "The situations is so COMPLEX and so many have played a role in causing or failing to fix the problem" (50% agree), and a second, Q18B, because "we are all EQUALLY to blame" (48% agree). It is worth many billions of dollars to business to have one or both Q18 views predominate. Considering both this battery and RESPONS, the public comes out on the other side of this question. The pro-business views are the two least supported by the public of the four tested in this battery. It will be interesting to see where the government, particularly the Congress finally comes down on this issue.

        One somewhat analogous precedent comes to mind. We have seen, in the case of worldwide gross violations of civil rights occurring in the '30s through the '60s, it is only in very recent years that some violators, after avoiding accountability for decades because governments have been too weak or collaborative to act, are finally being brought to justice, even fifty years later. Public mores are changing. Could something like this happen if other states and Congress enacted legislation protecting corporations more than people believed fair? As a matter of public policy, now while Y2K is still months away, seems a terrible time to increase immunity for corporations against Y2K litigation. Every incentive on corporate leaders should be aimed at getting the Y2K bugs out, not reassurance of impunity. After early 2000 we will have much more understanding of what is appropriate and necessary than we can possibly have now. The trend from the two surveys suggests an increasing desire for both accountability and legal liability. If Y2K turned into a big disaster and the above historical analogy is any guide, we might have to wait fifty years to see a final resolution of this conflict too.

Table 4. Demographic Highlights for Generic Accountability and Responsibility
Groups significantly different from average (Italics= below average), ranked by percent support:

 
Q17B. (77%) agree that "LEADERS" should be held accountable:
women 40+ (84%); women (81%), 50+yrs (81%), no internet (81%), $25-50k (80%), High School or less (80%), suburban (73%), West (58%).
 

Q17A. (62%) agree that "CAUSERS" should be held accountable:
65+yrs (73%), High School or less (72%), no internet (70%), Dem (68%), $-25k (68%), no Y2K (68%), urban (67%), women 40+ (67%), computer negative (65%).

 

Q18A. 50% Agree that "so COMPLEX no one" should be held responsible:
18-29yrs (56%), computer positive (55%), South (54%), suburban (53%)

 

Q18B. 48% Agree that "all EQUALLY to blame, no one" should be held responsible: liberal (56%), internet (51%).

Master Questionnaire Q25-26

QB25. If government officials working on the Y2K problem are asked in public about how far along Y2K remediation has progressed in some specific area where the government itself is in some doubt, which of the following three things should officials do? YOU MAY AGREE WITH AS MANY OF THESE THREE AS YOU WISH. Should the officials:


QB26. [If more than one chosen] Suppose there is only time for one of these. Which should get the priority?

 
Total
(QB25)
Priority
(QB26)
Try to be reassuring
42%
4%
Try to make sure the public knows how serious failure to complete the fixes could be
70
29
Explain the doubts as completely as they can even if they have to get a little into what is normally considered boring detail
73
21
Other (VOL)
1
--
Don’t know/Refused/NA
1
*
Not asked
--
46

Analysis Q25-26

How Public Needs to be Told Y2K Facts.

The people want government leaders speaking clearly about Y2K problems when there is doubt about how far along remediation has come. Q25 allowed multiple choices from among three: (1) leaders "explain the doubt as completely as they can even if they have to get a little into what is normally considered boring detail", chosen by 73%. (2) "Make sure the public knows how serious failure to complete the fixes could be", chosen by 70%. Far more people believe these two are preferable than choose (3) "try to be reassuring", the choice of only 42%. If there were time only for one, say because of an upcoming TV commercial (almost as non-deferrable as Y2K), those who chose two or three of the options in Q25, were asked in Q26 their first priority. Responses, were (1) 21%, (2) 29%, and (3) only 4%. 46% were not asked Q26 because they only mentioned one of the three choices. Altogether, this is a rational and sensible attitude.

Public Meetings.

Ranking first for "would consider", QA30A, "Going to a meeting open to the public in your community with local officials and Y2K experts who will discuss what is being done or could be done to reduce the negative impact of Y2K on our lives and where everybody can hear the ideas of the public on Y2K" would be considered by 59%. QA30A was not asked in the 1st poll. While only 7% say they have gone to such a meeting, this is an impressive 10 million people. In comparison with all other ideas tested, organizing such meetings so that millions would feel that they could participate, is one of the best things that could be done to satisfy the public on appropriate government leadership in Y2K. Thus Y2K presents an opportunity for democratic participation, community empowerment, and citizen leadership.

Of those 7% who said they have gone to such a meeting, in QA30B, 51% say they made a comment or asked a question. Of the 59% who have not gone but say they would consider going to such a meeting, in QA30C, a significantly larger 77% say that "if they had an opportunity and were encouraged to speak" they would do so. Assuming that the latter group is similar to the former (like those who have seen a movie and those who are waiting for an opportunity to do so) suggests that about one quarter (77-51 = 26%) of those who show up at such meetings now would feel limited if they were not both encouraged and allowed to speak. This suggests that beyond aiming for maximum public participation, satisfaction could be increased, together with potentially valuable inputs, by including breakout sessions at such meetings where everyone would get a chance to speak in small groups.

Demographic Highlight. Significantly above the 77% of those who would consider attending such a meeting and would like to speak at it are the following groups: 87% of men over 40, 86% of Democrats and of middle income folks, and 84% of men. Significantly below average are women (71%), Republicans (72%), Independents (73%), poor (73%), and affluent (69%). This data suggests the groups more likely to attend public meetings and those less likely. More effort should probably be focussed on attracting less interested groups, particularly women and the poor, who feel and often are discouraged from speaking up and participating, rather than trying to reach the more interested groups by publicizing such meetings to boost attendance and get the most interested to come.

Master Questionnaire Q31

Thinking about what may happen in the year two thousand…

QA31. Do you think that at some point as the Y2K situation develops, many, some, or very few people will react according to the old saying, "Every man for himself"?

 
Apr
1999
Aug
1998
Many
39%
36%
Some
40
33
Very few
19
27
Depends (VOL)
29
40
Don’t know
1
2
Refused/NA
 
*

QB31A. How likely is it that at some point YOU would behave according to the old saying "Every man for himself"? Is it…

 
Apr
1999
Aug
1998
Very likely
10%
11%
Somewhat likely
19
21
Somewhat unlikely
24
23
Very unlikely
44
42
Depends (VOL)
2
2
Don’t know
1
Refused/NA
  
*

QB31B. Do you think that men are more likely or less likely than women to behave according to the old saying "Every man for himself"?

More likely
65%
Equally likely (VOL)
12
Less unlikely
14
Depends (VOL)
3
Don’t know/Refused
6

Analysis Q31, Every man for himself. 79% considered it "very or somewhat" likely that some or many would react according to this old saying, up 10% from the 69% of the 1st poll. The breakout for men and women here is 87% of women and only 69% of men consider it "very or somewhat likely". When asked if they themselves would behave that way, only 29% (26% for women and 31% for men) thought that they would act that way, down from 32% in the 1st poll. By 65% to 14%, people believe that men are more likely than women to behave that way with 15% volunteering "equally likely" or "it depends". The view that each gender has of its own greater or less likelihood of behaving that way, is consistent with the view that both genders have of who would be likely to behave that way. If "equally likely" and "it depends" in QB31B were offered, they would undoubtedly have had more support, perhaps a plurality. This difference between volunteered and offered responses was mentioned earlier (illustrated by the Q1 response differences in ATI # 30 vs. ATI #30) and is fairly common polling phenomenon with binary questions.

Table 5. Demographic Highlights, Every man for himself, Significantly Above Average:

How many will act that way?

many (39% av): $-25k, HS or less, 48%; young women 18-39yrs, 47%;
urban, computer neg, women, 46%; no internet, 45%;

How likely _____ will act that way? (very+somewhat)

you (28%av): 18-29yrs, 40%; men 18-39yrs, urban, 35%; no kids, Independents, 33%

men more than women (60% av): 18-29yrs, 77%; liberal, urban, 76%; 40-49 yrs, 74%.

Master Questionnaire Q32

QB32A.The National Guard has sometimes been used to assist in maintaining law and order and to help Americans in distress as a result of major national disasters. If you heard that the President was going to call up the National Guard in connection with Y2K, what would be your primary reaction.

The Guard would reassure people and help prevent an increase in crime.
58%
The Guard is not prepared or trained enough, and might do more harm than good.
25
Widespread deployment of the Guard would infringe on our civil rights.
16
Depends (VOL)
2
Don’t know/Refused/NA
4

QB32B. Some people say Y2K is different from other disasters, because we have no experience with an event like this. They say the Guard would likely be more helpful if the units had extensive training, equipment and supplies, so they could be deployed to deal with a whole range of new contingencies. Would you favor or oppose such extensive training and preparation? (IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK:) Would that be STRONGLY favor/oppose or just SOMEWHAT favor/oppose?

Strongly favor 32%
Somewhat favor 30
Neither favor nor oppose (VOL) 1
Somewhat oppose 16
Strongly oppose 17
Depends (VOL) 1
Don’t know/Ref. 3
   
Collapsed:  
Favor 62%
Oppose 33

Analysis Q32, National Guard. With a preamble describing the role of the National Guard, B sample respondents were given three choices on their primary reaction to the President announcing he is going to call up the National Guard in connection with Y2K. Responses were: "the Guard would reassure people and help prevent an increase in crime, 58%; "the Guard is not prepared or trained enough, and might do more harm than good", 25%; "widespread deployment of the Guard would infringe on our civil rights", 16%.

Although a clear majority favor the Guard's deployment for Y2K there is substantial minority feeling against using the Guard, split along two different lines of thinking. We had anticipated a significant response along the lines of the Guard doing "more harm than good" and the preamble to QB32B makes a strong case for the Guard having extensive training and preparation. With the whole B sample being asked, 62% favored the training and 33% were opposed. These responses suggest that, if indicated, calling out the Guard should be considered, and if there is a possibility that the Guard will be called out, training and preparation should be done. If they are not, and the final decision to deploy the Guard were imminent, there is a case to be made that based on this finding, deployment would encounter resistance in unexpected ways.

Almost identical questions, in polls with state-significant samples, should be asked about governors calling out state guards. (A national sample of 1000 is not statistically significant within any state. It is reasonably significant over four regions, Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.) A full 1000+ sample for every state would be unwisely complex and expensive. A 500 size sample poll in a half a dozen states would be a good investment and might be conducted by the states themselves. In many states there are highly regarded quasi-commercial or state-university polling organizations accustomed to political polling and polling for state government agencies. This could be quite important in some states, as the Demographic Highlights suggest. In addition if state-wide surveys were done in any states, it would be helpful to test some of the other "new" ideas considered in this survey.

Table 6. Demographic Highlights -- Calling out the National Guard, significantly
different from average (italics, below average):
Guard would reassure and prevent increase in crime (58% av): rural, 66%; Dem, 65%; moderate, 63%.

Guard is not prepared or trained enough, can do more harm than good (25%av):
Northeast, 34%; suburban, 30%; urban, 28%.

Would infringe on civil rights (16% av): men 18-29yrs, 25%; under 49yrs, 22%;
men, 21%; Independents, 21%; conserv, MW, S, 20%; women 40+, 8%; over 65yrs, 2%.

Favor preparing and training guard for Y2K duty (62% av): 18-29yrs, 75%;
women 18-39, 73%, Dem, 70%; moderate, High School or less, no internet, 69%;

The Four New Pro-active Proposals. The four new proposals that are pro-active require government planning if they are to be implemented. QA35, "government require telecommunications industry and all mass media operate in the public interest and inform the public fully about such issues as Y2K" might be very difficult to do in a short time, but
QA33, (89% agree, 66% strongly), SEC and bank regulators require full public disclosure of corporations and banks on Y2K readiness;
QB38, (88% agree, 66% strongly), require all emergency government releases to be carried immediately by radio, TV, and all-hazards portable radio; and
QA37, (86% agree, 55% strongly), government required to update and release Y2K preparedness bulletins would all be relatively simple to do. (For example, the Securities Industry Association released a set of such Y2K guidelines to stock exchanges, brokers, and investors on May 29, '99.) Particularly, since the three are approved by 86% to 89% of the public, virtually unanimously, all should be immediately considered. Failure to do these relatively simple things, would likely induce more people to hold accountable and legally liable parties the public deems responsible. We are forewarned by the findings of Q17-34 on the rapidly growing support for accountability and legal liability that this is a real possibility.

Master Questionnaire Demographic Questions

Endnotes

10. August 1998 wording:  "All things considered, would you say that computers have made your life better or worse?" "Not affected/No difference" was accepted as a volunteered code only.

11. Poll conducted for the NSF and USA Today by Gallup.   Total of 1032 adults interviewed December 9-13, 1998, and 1021 adults interviewed march 5-7, 1999.

12. Intervening information and questions were somewhat different in August survey, but both surveys produced only minimal change.  Also, in August, respondents were allowed to use a 0-6 scale in the "post-information" raing.  Scores of 0 and 1 were combined and scores of 5 and 6 were combined for display here.

13. Interviewers were instructed to explain, if necessary, that "Accountable" means that the person or group must made a full disclosure of what they knew about the Y2K problem.

14. Interviewers were instructed to explain at the first mention of "Legally Liable" (and thereafter if necessary) that it means that there should be laws, including fines and imprisonment, to punish people who are guilty of causing the Y2K problem.