The less people know about bitcoin, the more they want to ban it. That’s according to a Reason-Rupe survey, which found that 56% of those in the survey knew “nothing at all” about bitcoin.

With only 19% claiming to know “a lot” or “some” about bitcoin, the results demonstrate just how little general understanding there is about bitcoin, despite the increase in media coverage.

A Bloomberg poll in December 2013 found 46% of people didn’t know what bitcoin is, with 6% guessing it is an Xbox game. A UK survey in February found a similar figure for awareness of the digital currency.

Age concerns

Of the 1,000 Americans surveyed, those who admitted knowing “nothing at all” about bitcoin were more likely to want to ban it than those who said they had some or a lot of knowledge about it.

After being told that bitcoin is “a new online digital currency that is not connected to any particular country’s currency system and is not controlled by any government”, 54% of Americans who had previously known nothing at all about bitcoin said that their government shouldn’t allow it to be used to purchase goods and services.

Said Reason-Rupe's Director of Polling Emily Ekins:

"Some people, when they don't know what something is, want to ban it. Other people, if they don't know what something is, they think it should be allowed unless it's causing someone harm in some way. And this question really delineates who those individuals are that favour choice and favour prohibition."

Age seems to be a factor too: older Americans were more likely to be opposed to bitcoin than young Americans. Only 22% of respondents over the age of 65 were OK with other people using bitcoin. Among 18-24 year olds, 59% said it should be allowed.

The results match up with a previous survey by Harris Interactive, which found a similar reduction in support among older people, and another survey by GfK, which found that 57% of 18-25 year olds thought bitcoin benefits the global economy.

Young and independent

Generally, bitcoin supporters were likely to be young and politically independent, with people identifying as Democrats or Republicans less likely to say that bitcoin should be permitted than people identifying as independent.

“This is part of a larger trend we’re observing with this generation: socially liberal with undecided economic views, but cares deeply about personalization and individual autonomy,” said Ekins.

As might be expected, a majority of people identified by Reason-Rupe as libertarians supported the use of bitcoin.

Surprisingly, though, 39% of libertarians said they would not allow the use of bitcoin – a result that may arise from the fact that Reason-Rupe grouped people under political labels based on questions about the “appropriate scope and power of government,” instead of asking people to self-identify, which may have included people who don’t necessarily consider themselves libertarian.

The survey also found that people who identified as gamers were more likely to support bitcoin. Good for you, gaming community.

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