How will catastrophe strike? In a survey designed to stir up interest in the Sci Fi Channel's "Countdown to Doomsday," a catastrophic series of terrorist attacks came up as the likeliest scenario for mass destruction - although a potential disease pandemic generated virtually the same amount of paranoia. More tellingly, those same survey respondents said they didn't feel very prepared for either variety of doomsday.
The results are contained in a survey of 800 U.S. registered voters, conducted May 22-25 by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Sci Fi Channel and NBC News Productions. The poll was done in advance of a Capitol Hill roundtable on disaster preparedness, due to be hosted Tuesday by the Sci Fi Channel. (Sci Fi is a network of NBC Universal, which has a stake in the MSNBC.com joint venture.)
You just know this all has to be tied in with a TV show - and indeed, "Countdown to Doomsday" is scheduled to premiere Wednesday.
The show goes through 10 possible doomsdays - including terror attacks and pandemics as well as global warming, asteroid strikes, solar flares, supervolcanoes, mass extinctions, gamma-ray bursts, robo-rebellions and alien invasions. The poll concentrated on the top four possibilities:
- Terrorist attacks: Twenty-nine percent of the respondents said they believed a series of terror attacks resulting in mass destruction "will" happen in their lifetime, and another 51 percent said such a calamity "could" happen. Ten percent said they felt the country was very prepared for such a scenario, and another 53 percent said that the country was at least somewhat prepared. However, only 8 percent said they were personally very prepared, with an additional 31 percent claiming they were somewhat prepared.
- Disease pandemics: Twenty-two percent said a pandemic "will" happen in their lifetime, with another 52 percent saying it "could" happen. Six percent considered the country very prepared; 51 percent said it was somewhat prepared; 8 percent said they were personally very prepared; and 34 percent said they were somewhat prepared.
- Global warming: Devastating climate change was seen as something that "will" happen by 23 percent, and something that "could" happen by 24 percent. Three percent said the country is very prepared; 31 percent said it was somewhat prepared; 6 percent said they were personally very prepared; and 26 percent said they were somewhat prepared.
- Asteroid collisions: Only 6 percent said a catastrophic impact will occur during their lifetime, and 25 percent said it "could" happen. Two percent consider the country very prepared; 13 percent said it was somewhat prepared; 4 percent said they were personally very prepared, and 8 percent said they were somewhat prepared.
Republicans tended to see the catastrophes as more likely than Democrats, but also viewed the country and themselves as more prepared to deal with it. Under-35 voters - and particularly younger men - were more likely to feel prepared to deal with terror attacks.
Yet another Sci Fi survey provides a different take on the doomsday question, with virtually all respondents conceding that at least one of the 10 catastrophic scenarios could conceivably happen ... someday.
Which begs the question: What are you afraid of? Does this match your personal paranoia index? Or is there any use to this kind of doomsday demographics?