With less than a week to go before El Salvador's Bitcoin Law takes effect on Tuesday, the majority of citizens surveyed are opposed to the government-mandated adoption of the cryptocurrency.
A survey conducted by the local Central American University’s Institute of Public Opinion found that 70% of Salvadorans believe President Nayib Bukele’s Bitcoin Law, which will recognize the cryptocurrency as legal tender, should be repealed.
However, more than 90% of those surveyed also admitted they have a poor understanding of cryptocurrency.
El Salvador’s struggling economy
Attitudes toward the Bitcoin Law appear intertwined with worries over the country’s poor economic performance.
The poll found that 45% of Salvadoran citizens believe that poverty and unemployment are the two most urgent problems facing the nation, and 43% believe that the nation’s economy will worsen with the passing of the Bitcoin Law.
According to The World Bank, 22.8% of El Salvador’s population is currently living below the poverty line, while the average annual income in the country is just $3,800. More than two-thirds of Salvadorans do not believe the local economy will improve even with an increase to the minimum wage.
The poll also found that 20% of Salvadorans “openly state that they do not know what a Bitcoin is,” while a further 70% confess to having a poor understanding of cryptocurrency. According to a rough translation, the researchers who conducted the survey concluded:
“In other words, nine out of 10 Salvadorans have no clear knowledge of what this financial asset is.”
The findings echo a similar poll taken in July, which found that only 20% of Salvadorans approved of Bukele’s forthcoming Bitcoin Law.
Bukele government promotes BTC
If there’s a sliver of optimism to be taken from the poll, it’s that the latest figures suggest that the number of citizens with “no understanding” of Bitcoin (BTC) has more than halved from July’s figure of 46% — suggesting that efforts from the government to increase awareness have had some slight effect.
On Aug. 30, Bukele shared the country’s first state-backed Bitcoin TV commercial on Twitter. The commercial features animated tutorials on how the government’s “Chivo” digital wallet can be used to purchase goods and transfer value.
The following day, Bukele tweeted out images of the Bitcoin ATMs that are slated for rollout across the country, with the president claiming that 50 physical terminals will be operational on Tuesday. The president also estimated that the pivot to embrace crypto will save the country $400 million each year in remittance fees.
Los puntos Chivo ayudarán a que la población pueda utilizar @chivowallet.— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) August 31, 2021
Esto les dará libertad y seguridad financiera, aparte de recibir beneficios, entre ellos el ahorro de 400 millones de dólares al año en comisiones para enviar y recibir remesas.#Bitcoin #PuntosChivo pic.twitter.com/BtVrKiK5eZ
To help drum up support for Bitcoin, the government also launched a charitable campaign, collecting BTC donations to fund dental treatments for impoverished Salvadorans. The “Bitcoin Smiles” campaign raised a total of 1.02 BTC (roughly $50,000) from 797 individual contributions.
Despite the government’s best efforts, concerns clearly remain. Hundreds of local citizens, in solidarity with unions and social organizations, turned out to protest the law on Thursda.
Sindicatos y organizaciones sociales se pronuncian en contra del Bitcóin, en las afueras del Centro Cultural Cívico Legislativo. pic.twitter.com/C9ftS6OfCD— LPGPolitica (@LPGPolitica) September 1, 2021