CORVALLIS - Despite the vast media coverage about potential computer problems linked to Y2K, only 2 percent of Oregonians surveyed think there will be major problems in the United States.

While more than half (59 percent) of the survey respondents think some minor problems may strike on or about Jan. 1, 2000, few are doing something about it. Only 42 percent have made any preparations and more than a third, 36 percent, say they plan to do nothing.

The survey was conducted by researchers in the College of Home Economics and Education at Oregon State University.

"By and large, people are expecting few problems and, in my opinion, they aren't really doing a lot of planning," said Sally K. Francis, interim dean of the graduate school and a professor specializing in consumer satisfaction. "Though when you dig a little deeper, you often find that they are buying extra batteries and candles, plan on filling their bathtubs with water and stockpiling a little cash."

The OSU survey polled 420 Oregonians at random. More than 94 percent had heard or read something about the potential Y2K crisis, but only 46 percent said they had heard or read "a great deal" about the issue.

One possible reason, the researchers say, is the overwhelming amount of coverage Y2K has received in the news media, as well as in other venues, has turned Oregonians off.

"When people see things day after day after day, the potential is there to become jaded," Francis said. "After a while, you don't want to think about buying extra batteries for your flashlight."

The survey also showed that Oregonians feel a high degree of confidence that U.S. corporations and large businesses, and state and federal government, will have upgraded their computer systems prior to Jan. 1. The respondents gave a confidence ranking (of very or somewhat confident) of 93 percent to state government and U.S. corporations; 90 percent, federal government; 88 percent, local government; and 84 percent, small U.S. businesses.

Interestingly, though the 84 percent confidence vote for small businesses appears strong, it seems that Oregonians are hedging their bets. Only 20 percent say they are very confident about the ability of small businesses to upgrade their computers before the year 2000, while 58 percent were very confident that major corporations would do so.

Overall, Oregonians' have little confidence in other countries' abilities to handle potential problems. Only 54 percent showed confidence that the foreign governments of other developed and industrialized countries would handle potential problems; and only 31 percent expressed confidence in the foreign governments of Third World and less developed countries.

Among the other findings:

  • 78 percent of the respondents say they have a favorable opinion about the use of computer technology in our society;
  • 1 percent felt that the year 2000 computer bug issue would result in positive outcomes for them, though it isn't known what those outcomes might be.

Other OSU researchers involved in the survey included Deana Grobe, a faculty research assistant; Caughey, an assistant professor; and Eun Young Chang, a doctoral candidate, all in the College of Home Economics and Education.

Francis said there are some common-sense things that people can do to prepare for any potential problems. The key, she said, is to think of it as you would any other sort of emergency preparation, whether it be a flood, a wind storm, or an earthquake.

"It never hurts to have a three-day supply of food, some extra propane for your barbecue, candles, and a supply of fresh water," she said, citing a few examples. "If there is no emergency, those things can still be used. Personally, I'm making sure that I have a one- or two-month stockpile of prescription drugs, just in case.

"But," she added with a laugh, "I've made the decision not to fly anywhere on Jan. 1."


Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Sally Francis, 541-737-4881