Bitcoin Might, in Fact, Be the Great ‘Equalizer’

A new global survey drills in on the perception of Bitcoin around the world, and the findings appear to be generally optimistic for global equity.

AccessTimeIconJun 5, 2022 at 2:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 14, 2024 at 7:57 p.m. UTC

A few months back, some of my work proximity associates thought it would be interesting to run a wide-reaching, sweeping Bitcoin survey to learn more about the demographics, user behaviors and general perceptions of this hotly debated digital thingamabob. Of course, we had other things to do, and so it got away from us.

Like all good ideas, we weren’t the only ones who had it. Over Memorial Day weekend Block (SQ) – the parent company of two prominent Bitcoin businesses, Cash App and Spiral – published a report titled “Bitcoin: Knowledge and Perceptions” with Wakefield Research. The report surveyed 9,500 people in 14 countries.

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  • As a bitcoiner, I already had some of the findings anecdotally established in my head, but now I have pertinent survey data to back up my idealistic thoughts about how “Bitcoin’s going to fix the world” or whatever.

    In all, the report is worth diving into, so let’s do that.

    George Kaloudis

    You’re reading Crypto Long & Short, our weekly newsletter featuring insights, news and analysis for the professional investor. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Sunday.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I recognize the cheapness in co-opting 12 pages of content produced by a ⅛-hippie-bitcoiner-led, publicly traded company whose entire strategic direction depends on the success of Bitcoin for this newsletter.

    Whatever.

    The report is worth paying attention to for two main reasons.

    1. It’s a quality piece of professional content to back up some of the anecdotal “good stuff” so that we can stop waving our hands while evangelizing Bitcoin.
    2. It made Bitcoin look pretty good.

    The three key findings outlined in the report are:

    1. Bitcoin provides promise for a more equitable economy.
    2. Bitcoin education is key for its adoption.
    3. Bitcoin is far better known than other cryptocurrencies.

    Keep in mind we don’t have access to the survey itself, and so there might be implicit bias in the framing 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 from potential bias, it makes me less skeptical. (Yes, I am hedging, and no, I don’t feel bad about it.)

    Bitcoin for a more equitable world

    There are three main focuses related to Bitcoin and equity mentioned in the report: 1) income, 2) geography and 3) gender.

    The findings related to income levels, while interesting, aren’t as pronounced as the other two. What’s more, the geography bit is tied to the income/wealth bit. In short, the report suggests higher-income people buy for investment reasons (make money, diversify, etc.), and lower-income people buy bitcoin for utility reasons (easy way to send money, to purchase goods).

    The geography bit that’s tied to the income/wealth bit manifests itself when you consider the percentage of respondents who would buy bitcoin to buy things plotted against the per-capita gross domestic product of the country they live in. There is a clear (visual) relationship of “down and to the right,” suggesting that individuals from poorer countries see more value in bitcoin as a means for transacting.

    (Block)
    (Block)

    Bitcoin as “digital cash” is the original use case, but as discussed in previous newsletters, that’s just narrative. In fact, the survey shows there is also a logarithmic-looking relationship between the percentage of respondents who would use bitcoin to protect against inflation versus the rate of inflation in their country.

    (Block)
    (Block)

    Small note here: A willingness to use bitcoin to protect against inflation doesn’t guarantee it will.

    Moving past the money part of Bitcoin, findings on perceived exclusivity is presented as one of the negative results of the survey. The report presents a map that shows the percentage of respondents who agreed with the notion that the Bitcoin community is not inclusive of people like them. A lot of countries are split. South Africans poll very pro-Bitcoin, but Indians feel quite the opposite.

    (Block)
    (Block)

    There are two possibilities here. 1) India’s historically tough stance on crypto has soured sentiment on Bitcoin, or 2) the Bitcoin community’s toxic maximalism culture that shows itself on social media platforms has soured Indian sentiment on Bitcoin. A single bad experience on social media is all it takes.

    Lastly in this section, the report makes an interesting claim:

    The gender divide in bitcoin ownership and self-described knowledge is more pronounced in the Americas but less male-dominated when looking at the rest of the world.

    That quote’s accompanying graphic can be overwhelming, but the main takeaway is this: Women in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and APAC (Asia-Pacific) claim expert knowledge at higher rates than men. Sure, this is great, but I would like to see more on this topic before using the phrase “there is no gender divide” as stated in the report (Block’s quote was: “There is no gender divide between people who both own bitcoin and see themselves as experts.”).

    (Block)
    (Block)

    Knowledge feeds optimism

    In this section, Block put it best: “Education is key.” When it comes to growing 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 purchase bitcoin in the next year.

    (Block)
    (Block)

    Anecdotally, a lack of education on the topic is what most developers point to when I ask them about the biggest blockers for adoption.

    Bitcoin is No. 1

    On the last page of the report, Block made an innocuous claim: Bitcoin is the best-known cryptocurrency. We know that. But the gap between bitcoin and second-place ether (ETH) was much larger than I would have thought. While 88% of respondents had heard of bitcoin, only 43% had heard of ether.

    (Block)
    (Block)

    My gut tells me Block included this to make investors feel that the company was right to focus only on Bitcoin. But I feel it is also included to highlight that longevity has perks. One of the reasons Bitcoin is better known is because it has succeeded for a longer period of time.

    In all, the report is high level and should be shared widely. It provides a great overview of the pertinent social questions being asked about Bitcoin, while giving some concrete figures in response to those questions.

    But we need to go deeper. I look forward to reading (and maybe writing) some of the surveys and reports this one inspires.


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    George Kaloudis

    George Kaloudis was a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.