Poll: Y2K fears subsiding in US

Despite the end of the year drawing ever closer, Americans feel a good deal less worried about the year 2000 problem than they did six to nine months ago, according to the results of an opinion poll released yesterday.

Close to 90 per cent of those questioned in the poll said they have heard "some or a great deal" about the year 2000 problem. More than one-third think that any year 2000-related problems will only involve a few days around January 1, 2000, a substantial change from the March survey when only 15 per cent of those surveyed held that view.

Gallup, together with the independent federal funding agency the National Science Foundation (NSF) and USA Today, polled 1014 US adults between August 25 and 29 via telephone interviews. It's the third poll the trio have carried out on Y2K since December last year, the second one took place in March. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, NSF officials said.

Americans are also less afraid of flying on or around January 1, 2000, with 43 per cent of respondents in the Gallup poll saying they will try to avoid flying at that time, compared to 54 per cent in March. Only 35 per cent of those polled believe that air traffic control systems will fail due to the year 2000 problem, down from 43 per cent in March.

The US population is also more confident that banking systems won't succumb to the date changeover problem, with 48 per cent saying such systems will fail, as opposed to 63 per cent in December of last year, according to the survey. Also, 90 per cent of those polled said that they will not take all their money out of the bank, although 25 per cent are planning to withdraw a large amount of money for possible contingencies related to any year 2000-related problems.

Less people -- just over 25 per cent compared to 36 per cent in December -- believe that 911 emergency communications systems for the police, fire and ambulance services will fail due to the date rollover.

However, once they look outside of the US, Americans' year 2000 confidence levels remained virtually static since December 1998 at just under the 50 per cent mark, that foreign governments will be able to correct their own date changeover issues. There was a slight dip in the respondents' take on the Third World and developing countries' ability to handle the year 2000 issue, with 75 per cent, down from March's 81 per cent of those polled saying they're not confident such countries can upgrade their systems to avoid the problem.

Meanwhile, a number of US electric utilities announced a successful conclusion to the year 2000 readiness drills they carried out over a 24-hour period.

An exercise conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) went without a hitch, according to a statement from New York-based Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC). The drill was a test of the contingency plans in place to deal with the date switchover from 1999 to 2000 and no problems were experienced in the transition to September 9. Standing by were several thousand electric staff across the US and Canada, who had to show their skill in using backup communications in the event of simulated contingencies, the NPCC officials said.

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