Y2K survey overview: Bad news isn't so bad, while the good news is ... very good

What would you like first? The good news about Y2K?

What would you like first? The good news about Y2K? Or the bad news? Who are we kidding -- we're journalists. You get the bad news first.

The bad news: The global computer glitch that arrives with the Year 2000 is generating serious worries about its potential impact -- to the extent that many of you have considered pulling money out of the banks, avoiding air travel and stocking up on extra food, fuel and supplies.

The good news: Many of you say you're confident that you and your employers will have the Millennium Bug licked by the day of reckoning.

These are some of the highlights of an online survey conducted by ZDNN of more than 6,300 ZDNet visitors -- in partnership with Harris Black International Ltd., the professional public opinion researchers behind the Harris Poll and the Harris Poll Online. Our survey was framed, conducted and tabulated by the Harris Poll pros. We provided the respondents, soliciting their participation via e-mail and from an assortment of ZDNet sites.

Indeed, our solicitation stands are the reason we must issue a disclaimer. Despite the highly-regarded Harris imprimatur, we cannot claim this as a scientific poll. Our respondents were self-selected, not randomly selected. Thus, our results can't be projected to a larger population of the general public or Internet users.

Our survey should be taken only for what it is -- a collection of responses from among a fairly large group of ZDNet visitors.

Then again, these same visitors are also what make the survey noteworthy, despite its limitations. As we note in the accompanying story on our survey's demographics, they are a well-educated, well-to-do group -- many of whom work in the information technology field. If anyone knows Y2K, our respondents do.

So what do they say? The highlights to our survey are explored in more depth in the five other stories that make up our ZDNN news special:

Awareness and worry. Eighty-four percent of our respondents claim at least a "good" or "complete" understanding" of Y2K. While few foresee a doomsday scenario, 61 percent anticipate at least "somewhat serious" effects on them or their families. A majority are worried it will negatively affect the U.S. stock markets. Yet, only 25 percent anticipate a Y2K-related domestic recession.

Personal reactions and plans. Presumably out of such concerns, nearly four-fifths of our respondents plan to prepare themselves and their families in some way, such as stocking up on extra food, fuel, batteries and candles. More than 60 percent have considered avoiding air travel and withdrawing money from a bank.

Banking debacle? We can't help but to wonder whether such plans to stash their cash could lead to a self-fulfulling prophecy. A quarter or our respondents have thought about taking nearly all of their money out from the banks. After all, a run on just 5 percent of a bank's deposits is enough to create a collapse.

Corporate preparedness. Our respondents are clearly more worried about the other guys. Three-quarters report that their employer has taken steps to prepare for Y2K, while 85 percent believe their firms will achieve their compliance goals in time for 2000.

Responsibility. Only a slight majority of our respondents think the government ought to take a stronger role to addressing Y2K. But if something goes wrong, Uncle Sam wouldn't bear the brunt of the blame. Nearly three-fifths of our respondents said they'd mostly hold business leaders and information technology professionals responsible.

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