A few months ago, some of my colleagues nearby thought it would be interesting to conduct a wide-ranging, comprehensive Bitcoin survey to learn more about the demographics, user behavior, and general perception of this hotly debated digital gizmo. Of course, we had other things to do, and so it slipped through our fingers.
Like all good ideas, we weren't the only ones who had them. Over Memorial Day weekend, Block (SQ) - the parent company of two well-known bitcoin companies, Cash App and Spiral - released a report with Wakefield Research titled "Bitcoin: Knowledge and Perceptions." The report surveyed 9,500 people in 14 countries.
As a Bitcoiner, I already had some of the results anecdotally in my head, but now I have relevant survey data to back up my idealistic thoughts about how "Bitcoin will fix the world" or whatever.
All in all, it's worth diving into the report, so let's do that.
- George Kaloudis
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Yes, yes, yes. I realize it's cheap to take 12 pages of content for this newsletter from a publicly traded company run by "hippie Bitcoiners" whose entire strategic direction depends on Bitcoin's success.
The report is worth paying attention to for two reasons.
report's top three findings are:
Keep in mind that we do not have access to the survey itself, so there may be an implicit bias in the wording of the survey questions. This would explain why an outside market research firm was attached to the report. While this doesn't absolve Block of possible bias, it does make me less skeptical. (Yes, I'm playing it safe, and no, I don't feel bad about it.)
Bitcoin for a More
WorldThere are three
focus areas related to Bitcoin and equity mentioned in the report: 1) income, 2) geography, and 3) gender.
The results related to income levels, while interesting, are not as pronounced as the other two. In addition, the geography aspect is linked to the income/wealth aspect. In short, the report suggests that higher income people buy Bitcoin for investment reasons (making money, diversifying, etc.), while lower income people buy Bitcoin for utility reasons (easy way to send money, buy goods).
The geographic aspect related to the income/wealth aspect becomes clear when comparing the percentage of respondents who would buy Bitcoin to buy things to the per capita gross domestic product of the country they live in. There is a clear (visual) relationship "down and to the right," suggesting that individuals from poorer countries see more value in Bitcoin as a means of transaction.
Bitcoin as "digital cash" is the original use case, but as discussed in previous newsletters, this is just a narrative. In fact, the survey also shows a logarithmic-looking relationship between the percentage of respondents who would use Bitcoin to protect against inflation and the inflation rate in their country.
Small note on this: Willingness to use Bitcoin to protect against inflation is no guarantee that it will happen.
Apart from the monetary component of Bitcoin, the results on perceived exclusivity are presented as one of the negative findings of the survey. The report presents a map showing the percentage of respondents who agree that the Bitcoin community is not inclusive of people like them. Many countries are split. South Africans are very pro-Bitcoin in the polls, but Indians are just the opposite.
There are two possibilities here. 1) India's historically tough stance on cryptocurrencies has worsened sentiment toward Bitcoin, or 2) the Bitcoin community's toxic maximalism culture, evident on social media platforms, has worsened Indian sentiment toward Bitcoin. One bad social media experience is all it takes.
Finally, the report makes an interesting assertion in this section:The gender gap in Bitcoin ownership and self-described knowledge is more pronounced in America, but less male-dominated when looking at the rest of the world.
The accompanying graph to this quote can be overwhelming, but the key finding is this: Women in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and APAC (Asia Pacific) claim expert knowledge at a higher rate than men. Sure, that's great, but I'd like to see more on this topic before using the phrase "there is no gender gap" as stated in the report (Block's quote was, "There is no gender gap between people who both own Bitcoin and consider themselves experts").
Knowledge feeds optimismIn this
section, Block put it best: "Education is key." When it comes to increasing Bitcoin's network effect by getting more people to buy and use Bitcoin, the more respondents knew about Bitcoin, the more likely they were to buy it in the next year.
Anecdotally, a lack of education on the subject is what most developers cite when I ask them about the biggest barriers to adoption.
Bitcoin is No. 1On the
last page of the report, Block makes an innocuous claim: Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency. We know that. But the gap between Bitcoin and second-place Ether (ETH) was much wider than I would have thought. While 88% of respondents had heard of Bitcoin, only 43% knew of Ether.
My gut tells me that Block made this statement to make investors feel that focusing only on Bitcoin was the right thing to do. However, I believe this is also to emphasize the benefits of longevity. One of the reasons Bitcoin is better known is because it has been successful over a longer period of time.
All in all, the report is of a high standard and should be widely distributed. It provides a great overview of the relevant social questions being asked about Bitcoin, while also providing some concrete numbers in response to those questions.
But we need to go deeper. I look forward to reading (and perhaps writing) some of the surveys and reports that this report encourages.