The Mayan calendar will cycle back to zero on Dec. 21, 2012 for the first time since 3114 B.C. and people around the world--from Argentina to Asia and the Middle East--believe that fact to be an indicator of doomsday.
One in 10 people believe the end of the world will occur in 2012, and nearly one in seven believe the world will end in their lifetimes, according to a new Reuters survey.
Many believe the end of the Mayan calendar will bring a catastrophe-- death by flood, meteorite showers or a reversal of the Earth's magnetic field. Others believe the calendar's end will begin a transition into a new era during which the Earth's population will undergo a spiritual transformation.
"Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God, or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, one in seven thinks the end of the world is coming," said Keren Gottfried, research manager at IPOS Global Public Affairs, according to Reuters. IPOS is an independent market research company.
The new poll surveyed 16,262 adults in 21 countries, including, China, Turkey, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Argentina, Hungary, Poland, Spain, South Africa and Great Britain.
The data shows that 20 percent of the Chinese population surveyed agree with the statement that ‘the Mayan calendar marks the end of the world in 2012.' In Turkey, Russia and Mexico, 13 percent of each country's population agreed. In the United States 12 percent of those polled expect the world will end on Dec. 21.
Germany and Indonesia were the most skeptical countries. In each country, only 4 percent of those polled agreed with the idea.
A full 22 percent of people living in the United States and Turkey expect to see Armageddon in their lifetime, the poll found.
These beliefs seem to translate into panic and worry. Worldwide, eight percent of the population admits "experiencing anxiety or fear because the world is going to end in 2012,” according to the poll.
For some doomsday believers the Mayan calendar is not the only indicator that 'the end' is near.
Last year, televangelist Harold Camping made headlines when he predicted that the world would end on May 21. Camping preached that only some would be saved during the catastrophe and -- dead or alive -- would float up into the sky. Those left behind would live in doom until Oct. 21 when God would completely destroy the Earth, Camping said.
Thousands of Camping’s followers prepared for doomsday and headed out to the streets to recite passages of The Bible and warn others about the end. Camping has since described his first doomsday prediction as misguided and inaccurate.
But why do so many people anticipate Armageddon?
People with limited education or low incomes were more likely to believe that the end of the world will soon arrive or experience anxiety over the prospect of an apocalypse during their lifetime, according to data gathered by IPSOS.
“The Mayan calendar is at the center of an escalating cultural phenomenon -- with New Age roots -- that unites numinous dreams of societal transformation with the darker tropes of biblical cataclysm,” The New York Times reported.
The desire for social transformation may be the residue of recent economic downturns and environmental tragedies. Uncertainty about the future can drive interest in supernatural answers.
For some "2012 provides an explanation for troubling new realities — environmental change, for example — that seem beyond the control of our technology and impervious to reason," the New York Times reported.