The first of its kind, the monthly survey provides insight into American perceptions of Bitcoin. Five months of data, from September 2014 to January 2015, are now available.
“There has never been a definitive benchmark for public understanding of Bitcoin,” said Coin Center executive director Jerry Brito in a press release sent to CoinReport. “This survey demonstrates that there’s much to be done to build an understanding of Bitcoin, and at Coin Center we see this as an opportunity to build effective educational programs for policymakers and consumers alike.”
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were not at all familiar with Bitcoin. Of those who said they were “not too familiar,” somewhat familiar,” or “very familiar” with Bitcoin, 84 percent said they have never used the digital currency.
The survey also explored public perception of Bitcoin’s usefulness and trustworthiness. In an initial analysis of the findings in a Coin Center blog, Peter Van Valkenburgh, the center’s research director, said the measures of trust and usefulness were particularly interesting.
Respondents were asked, “Given what you know, how much do you trust or distrust Bitcoin?” and “Given what you know, how useful or not useful do you think Bitcoin is as of today?” Coin Center graphed responses to these two questions against each other, using circles. The largest circles appeared under “neutral” (trust) and “slightly” (usefulness) and “strongly distrust” (trust) and “not at all” (usefulness), followed by “neutral” and “useful,” “distrust” and “slightly,” and “distrust” and “not at all.”
“Our goal is to get everyone into the upper right quadrant (Strongly Trust and Very Useful), but it’s going to take time,” said Van Valkenburgh.
He added, “It is clear that there is more work to be done. Public policy generally reflects public sentiment on a subject. That’s why such a profound lack of familiarity is particularly alarming. It’s also an opportunity, however. What we see is a large gap in public understanding of Bitcoin, and part of our mission is to help close this gap so that any policy decisions made with respect to Bitcoin are well informed, good for competition, economic growth, and technological innovation.”
Respondents were asked to rate the primary use of Bitcoin on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being “most crime, fraud, extortion” and 7 being “most legal transfers, investing.” Slightly more than one-third of respondents selected “4” on the scale, with the overall average being 3.5.
The survey included another seven-point scale question about whether governments should ban Bitcoin or leave the digital currency alone (1 being “ban it”; 7 being “leave it alone). More than one-third of respondents chose “4” on the scale, with an overall average of 4.2.
Coin Center’s survey is fielded with Google Consumer Surveys. Coin Center said results are weighed by gender, age, and income in order to best simulate the General American population. Each month’s sample has at least 1,000 completions for all questions.
Image via coincenter.org’s About page (License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States)