A A few months ago, some of my close associates at work thought it would be interesting to conduct an extensive Bitcoin survey to learn more about the demographics, user behaviors, and general perceptions of this highly controversial digital thingy. Of course, we had other things to do, and so it slipped our minds.
Like all good ideas, we weren’t the only ones with them. Over Memorial Day weekend, Block (SQ) – the parent company of two prominent Bitcoin companies, Cash App and Spiral – released a report titled “Bitcoin: Insights and Perceptions” with Wakefield Research. The report surveyed 9,500 people in 14 countries.
As a bitcoiner, I already had some of the findings established anecdotally in my head, but now I have relevant survey data to back up my idealistic thoughts of how “Bitcoin will fix the world” or whatever.
Overall, the report is worth digging into, so let’s do it.
– Georges Kaloudis
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Yeah yeah yeah. I agree that it is cheap to co-opt 12 pages of content produced by a ⅛-hippie-bitcoiner-ledpublicly traded company whose entire strategic direction depends on the success of Bitcoin for this newsletter.
The report deserves attention for two main reasons.
- It’s professional quality content to back up some of the anecdotal “good stuff” so we can stop waving our hands while evangelizing Bitcoin.
- It made bitcoin look pretty good.
The three main findings presented in the report are:
- Bitcoin promises a fairer economy.
- Bitcoin education is key to its adoption.
- Bitcoin is much better known than other cryptocurrencies.
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. That would explain the third-party market research consultancy that was attached to the report. While that doesn’t absolve Block of potential bias, it does make me less skeptical. (Yes, I cover myself, and no, I don’t blame myself.)
Bitcoin for a fairer world
There are three primary Bitcoin and equity-related goals 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 geographical part is linked to the income/wealth part. In short, the report suggests that high-income people buy for investment reasons (earning money, diversifying, etc.) and low-income people buy bitcoin for utility reasons (easy way send money, buy goods).
The geography bit related to the income/wealth bit shows up when you consider the percentage of respondents who would buy bitcoin to buy things versus the gross domestic product per capita of the country they live in. There is a clear (visual) “bottom and right” relationship, suggesting that individuals in poorer countries see more value in bitcoin as a means of transaction.
Bitcoin as “digital money” is the original use case, but as stated in previous newsletters, that’s just a narrative. In fact, the survey shows that there is also a seemingly logarithmic relationship between the percentage of respondents who would use bitcoin to hedge against inflation and the rate of inflation in their country.
A quick note here: a willingness to use bitcoin to hedge against inflation does not guarantee that it will.
Beyond the monetary part of Bitcoin, findings on perceived exclusivity are presented as one of the negative results of the survey. The report features a map that shows the percentage of respondents who agree that the Bitcoin community does not include people like them. Many countries are divided. South Africans are very pro-Bitcoin, but Indians think just the opposite.
There are two possibilities here. 1) India’s historically tough stance on crypto has soured sentiment on Bitcoin, or 2) the Bitcoin community’s culture of toxic maximalism manifesting on social media platforms has soured Indian sentiment on Bitcoin. One bad experience on social networks is enough.
Finally, in this section, the report makes an interesting claim:
The gender divide in bitcoin ownership and self-proclaimed knowledge is most pronounced in the Americas, but less male-dominated when looking at the rest of the world.
The accompanying graphic to this quote may be overwhelming, but the main takeaway is this: Women in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and APAC (Asia-Pacific) claim knowledge specialized at higher rates than men. Sure, that’s great, but I’d like to know more about this topic before I use the phrase “there is no difference between the sexes” as stated in the report (Block’s quote was: “There is no gender difference between people who both own bitcoin and consider themselves experts”).
Knowledge feeds optimism
In this section, Block puts it best: “Education is key.” When it comes to increasing the network effect of bitcoin by getting more people to buy and use bitcoin, the more respondents knew about bitcoin, the more likely they were to buy bitcoin next year .
Anecdotally, a lack of education on the subject is what most developers point out when I ask them about the biggest adoption blockers.
Bitcoin is #1
On the last page of the report, Block made an innocuous claim: Bitcoin is the most well-known cryptocurrency. We know that. But the gap between bitcoin and second place ether (ETH) was much bigger than I would have thought. While 88% of respondents had heard of bitcoin, only 43% had heard of ether.
My gut tells me that Block included this to make investors feel that the company was right to focus solely on Bitcoin. But I think it’s also included to emphasize that longevity has benefits. One of the reasons Bitcoin is better known is that it has been successful for a longer period of time.
Overall, the report is high level and should be widely shared. It provides an excellent overview of relevant social questions being asked about Bitcoin, while giving hard numbers in response to those questions.
But we must go further. I look forward to reading (and possibly writing) some of the investigations and reports this one inspires.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.