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Massive Y2K Survey

The Third Y2K Survey of the Public

Executive Summary
This survey is the third of three surveys being conducted to monitor the public’s awareness and understanding of the Y2K problem. The specific objectives for the surveys are to measure the following:

 Awareness, source of awareness of the Y2K problem

 Level of concern about the Y2K problem

 Understanding about what could happen as a result of the Y2K problem

 Confidence in availability of various services after 31 December 1999

 Understanding of when Y2K problems may take effect

 Length of time it is expected to take to deal with Y2K problems

 What plans have, or may be made to deal with effects of Y2K problems and reasons for not making plans

 Confidence in various sources of information about Y2K

 Awareness of the Y2K Commission and confidence in information supplied by the Commission

 Importance of receiving various kinds of information about the Y2K problem

 Expected impact of Y2K problem on households

 Expected impact of Y2K problem on New Zealand economy

 Awareness of the publicity undertaken by the Y2K Readiness Commission on television and by direct mail

Survey method

The survey was conducted by telephone in the period 6 – 16 September 1999 with a sample of 1,006 households. The sample was selected at random from the telephone directory. The response rate, calculated as the number of interviews obtained, divided by interviews obtained + refusals was 37%. The sampling error on estimates made from the total sample is ± 3.1%.

Key findings

The key findings are:

 Awareness of the Y2K problem as a concept remained high in the September survey at 99%.

 The proportion of respondents who are concerned in some way about the Y2K problem has decreased from 48% to 35%.

 There continues to be a good understanding of the implications of the Y2K problem, and there has been a significant increase (about 20%) in the proportion of respondents who understand that there could be implications for the power and water supply.

 The level of confidence that essential services, such as utilities, will continue to be available after 31 December 1999 is high, and in many cases has risen slightly in comparison with the previous survey. The level of confidence continued availability of government payments such as pensions is rather low in comparison at 58%

 It is fairly well understood that the Y2K problem will occur after 31 December 1999 and that the problems may roll-out, as it were, and not all be evident immediately after the change to the new year.

 The majority of survey participants believe that any problems experienced will be fixed in 5 days or less. The proportions who believe it will take a week or more has decreased since the June survey.

 There has been a significant increase in the proportion of respondents who have, or who intend to, plan for any Y2K problems that may occur. 55% have made plans already and a further 19% will definitely make plans, bringing the proportion who have or will make plans up to 74%. Those who have not yet made plans, but intend to do so, will make their plans in November or December. The 14% of respondents who are unlikely to plan for the Y2K problem believe that the problem may not occur at all, or that if it does, it will be small and not worth worrying about.

 The eventualities that will be planned for are primarily problems with food and water, power and banking.

 There is a high level of confidence in Civil Defence and the Y2K Readiness Commission as a source of information about the Y2K problem. There is least confidence in WINZ, IRD and ACC, and in government departments as a whole, as a source of information.

 The information that is regarded as the most important is information about what help people can get if there is a Y2K problem, what people can do to plan for the problem, and what will happen in their households as a result of any Y2K problems.

 The expected impact on households of the Y2K problem is that it will be a minor or moderate impact. The expectation about the impact on the New Zealand economy is that it will also be minor or moderate.

 The awareness of the Y2K Readiness Commission’s advertising and publicity programme was high. Some 92% of the sample have seen the TV advertisements at least once. There was a high level of recall of the specific messages relating to the need to have food and water available. The advertising seems to have had a reassuring effect in that some 69% of the sample feel that their households will be OK in the event of Y2K problems occurring. Some 65% of respondents recalled having received the pamphlet and fridge magnet distributed to households in the early part of August.

 There is a relatively high level of preparedness on the part of households. Some 87% of households claim to have stored food, and 49% claim to have stored water supplies.

Awareness, source of awareness and level of concern about the Y2K problem
The level of awareness of the terms Y2K Problem, Millennium Bug or Millennium Time Bomb was very high. Some 99% of respondents had heard of one of these terms. Of those who had heard of the Y2K problem, 89% had heard about it on TV, 69% had heard about it from newspapers, 54% had heard about it on the radio. and 32% had heard about it at work.

Level of concern about the Y2K problem

The level of public concern about the Y2K problem was considerably lower in September than it was in June (35% versus 48%). This suggests that information about the Y2K problem has had the effect of allaying concern about its impact. Of those who were concerned only 3% were extremely concerned, 45% were somewhat concerned, and 38% were a little concerned. There has been a shift, therefore, towards less concern between June and September.

Understanding about what could happen as a result of the Y2K problem
Respondents were asked what they believed could happen as a result of the Y2K problem.

September June March/April

What could happen as a result of the Y2K problem % % %
Computers and computer programs may not work properly 59 63 70
Equipment with computer chips may not work properly 20 24 21
Problems with:
Power supply 73 54 33
The banking system 41 47 43
Water/wastewater 63 43 23
Air travel 22 29 25
Emergency services (Ambulance, Hospitals, Fire, Police) 11 18 15
Telecommunications 17 18 14
Household equipment generally 12 14 13
Obtaining food and grocery essentials 9 10 8
Public transport other than air travel 6 8 6

There has been an interesting shift in the understanding about what could happen as a result of the Y2K problem. Problems with power and water/wastewater are now mentioned by a rather higher proportion than before, while problems with computers is mentioned by a smaller proportion. This suggests that the understanding of the possible consequences of Y2K has broadened, and is not seen as mainly affecting computer to the same extent as in previous surveys.

Confidence in availability of various services after 1 January 2000

Respondents were asked to express their level of confidence on a 3-point scale, very confident, reasonably confident or not confident. To arrive at the level of confidence we have aggregated the first two points on this scale.

September June March/April

Level of confidence in the availability of essential services after 31 December 1999 % % %
Food and other grocery essentials 91 91 90
Public transport 92 89 88
Petrol supplies 82 84 81
Gas supplies 85 81 76
Power supplies 80 80 78
Telecommunications within New Zealand 83 80 78
Maintenance of law and order 87 77 77
Emergency services (Ambulance, Police, Fire Service) 88 80 75
Water supply 80 79 82
Wastewater disposal 78 76 81
Public transport, other than air travel 92 89 88
Banking services 71 68 N/A
Air travel 59 58 56
Government payments, such as pensions and benefits 58 57 52
Your workplace and job (if applicable) 93 N/A N/A
Household security systems (if applicable) 81 N/A N/A
Your household computers (if applicable) 79 N/A N/A
Other household equipment 86 N/A N/A

Generally, the level of confidence in the availability of essential services after December 31, 1999 has increased or stayed the same. The level of confidence in essential supplies such as food, energy, water/wastewater, emergency services, law and order and banking services, has generally increased or stayed the same. The level of confidence in the maintenance of government payments remains somewhat lower, although higher now than in the survey conducted in March/April.

Understanding of when Y2K problem may occur

It is generally well understood that the Y2K problem may occur on or after 31 December 1999. Respondents could select more than one date or time period when the Y2K problem would take effect. The most frequently selected dates were 31 December 1999 (61%) and 1 January 2000 (53%), but there was an understanding also that the Y2K problem may take effect in the days after 1 January 2000 (48%) or in the weeks after 1 January 2000 (33%). These percentages have not changed significantly between the June and the September surveys.

Length of time it is expected to take to deal with Y2K problems

Respondents were given the opportunity to say how long they expected it would take to restore essential services if a Y2K problem did occur. The answers were measured on a scale as follows: 1 - 2 days, 3 - 5 days, a week, a fortnight, a month or more. We have telescoped the information into just two points as shown in the table below:

September June

Length of time expected for restoration of services Up to 5 days

% A week or more
% Up to 5 days
% A week or more
%
Food and other grocery essentials 76 21 66 28
Public transport 72 23 64 28
The power supply 68 27 54 38
Telecommunications 72 25 63 33
Work or place of study 76 22 61 34
Water supply 73 22 60 34
Petrol supplies 67 29 59 33
Sewerage (wastewater) 71 25 57 36
The banking system 65 32 56 39

There has been a clear shift in perceptions about the length of time various services or supplies may be unavailable if they are affected by Y2K problems. The perception is now that the period may be shorter than was the case in the June survey. A similar shift occurred between the March/April and June surveys.

What plans have been, or may be made, to deal with effects of Y2K problems and reasons for not making plans

Respondents were asked if they had, or would be making plans, to deal with the effects of the Y2K problem, if any were to occur.

September June March/April

Level of household planning for Y2K problems if any occur % %
Have made plans already 55 37 30
Will definitely make plans 20 22 14
May make plans when more information is available 10 14 21
Will probably, or definitely not make any plans 14 24 31
Don’t know 1 3 4
Check from raw numbers 100 100 100

There has been a significant shift in the proportions of respondents who have or will make plans to deal with any Y2K problems that may occur. The proportion who have made, or will definitely make plans is now 75% (up from 59%). This increase means that the proportion who will make plans when more information is available is now lower, as is the proportion who will definitely not make plans (14% down from 24%). Reasons for not making any plans are that there may not be a problem, or that the problem may be small.

When those plans will be made

Where plans had not already been made, respondents were asked when they would be making their plans.

September

When the plans would be made %
September 7
October 8
November 24
December 56
Don’t know 5
100

The majority will make their plans in December (56%) or in November (24%).
Events that will be planned for
The table below shows the events that will be planned for by those who have, or will be making, plans for the Y2K problem, and the proportions who will be making plans for the events concerned.

September June March/April

Events that will be planned for % % %
Problems with the water supply 91 75 66
Interruptions to the power supply 87 73 65
Problems with getting food and essential grocery supplies 86 81 76
Problems with the banking system 72 76 67
Problems with wastewater 57 33 29

The increased level of planning for problems with wastewater reflects, in our opinion, the shift in understanding that wastewater may be affected by the Y2K problem, rather than an increase in concern with the readiness of the wastewater disposal systems. As seen previously, there is a high level of confidence in the continued availability of utilities, including wastewater disposal, after 31 December 1999.

Confidence in various sources of information about Y2K

The confidence the respondents had in the various sources of information was established using a 5-point scale, very confident, confident, somewhat confident, not very confident, not at all confident. For the purpose of this table we have aggregated the figures for very confident, confident and somewhat confident.

September June March/April

Level of confidence in various sources of information about the Y2K problem % % %
Civil Defence 91 89 86
Your telephone company 89 85 87
Your supplier of water 87 81 83
Your electricity supplier 86 84 84
Your bank 84 82 83
The local city council 81 78 77
The computer industry 77 75 77
The media (TV, radio and newspapers) 69 77 72
Government departments generally 69 68 62
ACC 63 N/A N/A
IRD 61 N/A N/A
WINZ 54 49 49

There has been an increase in the level of confidence in public utilities as sources of information about the Y2K problem. The level of confidence in government departments as sources of this type of information has not changed markedly between the June and the September surveys, although there was an increase in confidence between the March/April survey and the June survey.
Awareness of the Y2K Commission and confidence in information supplied by the Commission

Some 61% (up from 38%) of the sample had heard of the Y2K Readiness Commission. Those who had not, were told of the Commission and its functions. All respondents were then asked about the level of confidence they would have in information about the Y2K problem supplied by the Commission. 25% are very confident, 36% are confident and 36% are somewhat confident in the accuracy and reliability of information supplied by the Commission. Thus in total 87% of the sample has some level of confidence in information supplied by the Y2K Readiness Commission, the same level as was found in the previous survey.

Importance of receiving various kinds of information about the Y2K problem
The sample were read a list of possible information requirements and were asked to say how important it was to them to receive this kind of information. A 5-point importance scale was used (most important=5, least important=1). In this report only the percentages for most important have been presented.

September June March/April

Importance of receiving information about potential Y2K problems (most important only) % % %

What help people can get if there is a problem 73 71 73
What people can do to plan for the Y2K problem 58 58 62
What govt departments will do if there is a Y2K problem 53 N/A N/A
Who will not be Y2K ready before the year 2000 53 55 58
What may happen in your household 52 53 60
What business and organisations will do if a problem 51 52 50
What may happen in your neighbourhood 48 46 56
Who will be Y2K ready before the year 2000 47 50 55
What may happen in your city or closest town 47 49 56
What may happen in New Zealand as a whole 45 51 57
What govt departments are doing to fix the Y2K problem 43 N/A N/A
What organisations and business are doing to fix 39 40 40
What may happen in New Zealand workplaces 34 40 46
What may happen in the rest of the world 33 37 43
The reasons why the Y2K problem exists at all 25 26 26

There is clearly a need for information about who can help if a Y2K problem occurs and how one can plan for it.

Expected impact of Y2K problem on households

43% of the respondents felt the Y2K would have only a minor impact on their households, 35% felt it may have a moderate impact and 7% felt it may have a major impact on their household. 13% felt it would have no impact on their households. This is very similar to the figures found in the June survey.
Expected impact of Y2K problem on New Zealand economy

33% felt that the Y2K problem may have only a minor impact on the New Zealand economy, 36% felt it may have a moderate impact, and 18% (down from 21% in June) felt it may have a major impact. 8% felt it may have no impact at all.

Impact of advertising

The awareness of the Y2K Readiness Commission’s television advertisement about the need for planning was high. Some 71% of respondents were able to describe the advertisement in terms which indicated that they had seen it. A further 21% of the respondents recalled having seen the advertisement when it was described as the advertisement with a cockroach as the presenter. In total, therefore, 92% of the respondents had seen one or more of the advertisements.

The key messages taken out by those who recalled having seen the advertisement were that people should put aside water (64%), put aside food (57%), put aside torch and spare batteries (28%) have a barbecue or other cooker available (20%). 21% could not recall any specific message from the advertisement.

There was concern that the advertisements might have resulted in increasing any anxieties about the Y2K problem and its possible consequences. The statements in the table below were read to respondents who were asked to what extent they describe their feelings now that they had seen the advertising.

September

Effect of advertising %

I feel quite worried now about what will happen as a result of Y2K 7
I understand what I have to do in case there is a Y2K problem 49
I am confident that our household will be OK if there is a Y2K problem 69

The main effect of the advertising would appear to have been to increase understanding about what can be done to deal with the Y2K problem confidence that the Y2K risk to households can be managed.

The pamphlet and fridge magnet

When asked whether they recalled having received something in the mail about what they should do in case of Y2K problems, 54% recalled the pamphlet and/or fridge magnet without further prompting. When the pamphlet and fridge magnet was mentioned, a further 11% recalled having received it. Thus, a total of 65% of respondents recalled having received the pamphlet and/or the fridge magnet.
Of those who recall having seen the pamphlet 70% had read it, and a further 20% were planning to read it. Of those who received the fridge magnet, 70% have placed it on the fridge.

General emergency preparations

The opportunity was taken to establish what items people keep in their households in case of an emergency, and the results are shown in the table below.

September

Items held in households %

Emergency light, e.g. torch 95
Bucket and plastic bags 89
Stored food 87
First aid kit 86
Something to cook on 79
Personal medication 75
A battery operated radio 71
Spare batteries 68
Pet food 53
Stored water 49
Other items 37

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