The 2014 Survey of Bitcoin Polling, was released earlier this week by the Bitcoin Knowledge, Use, and Opinion (BitKOU) project. The report suggests that lower-income populations are more likely to adopt Bitcoin, and recommends greater effort on building knowledge and trust among general publics.

The 2014 Survey of Bitcoin Polling, which included a "meta-analysis" consisting of 21 existing English language public polling data about Bitcoin, found that across various population segments from different geographical areas, knowledge is low, trust is weak, and adoption rates among customers and merchants are slow.

Dr. Stephen P. Konieczka, the author of the report

Dr. Stephen P. Konieczka, the author of the report, commented on the release:

"The top-lines will surprise no one who has been following Bitcoin news over the last few years. However, when you begin to dig deeper into available data, surprising results begin to surface."

Lower-income, greater adoption

Among the surprising results, one finding revealed that lower-income respondents are more likely to use Bitcoin in the future. "The relationship between knowledge and likelihood of adoption is exactly the opposite of what, logically, we would expect to find,” explained Konieczka.

According to him, this finding should influence actors in the ecosystem to make strategic choices about educational outreach and business development.

However, he noted that while the surveys have a good degree of overlapping topics, and fairly consistent findings, they are not "scientifically reliable" and should not be used to make foregone conclusions. He added:  

“Immigrants living in the US, who are more familiar with remittance services, could explain this tendency.”

"Assuming the data could be confirmed, one thought I had that might explain [this trend], is communities from which the lower-income American respondents were drawn," he stated. "We are just speculating here, but let's say that those communities have a higher level of immigrants from South America and Africa, then their own or their family's experiences with digital currencies may be greater, and therefore, they are more willing to experiment with Bitcoin."

Another possible reason of this trend might be the challenges of giving the under-banked the ability to gain access to financial services: 

"It gets increasingly difficult for low-income people to secure traditional bank accounts. Assuming the respondents understood that Bitcoin circumvents the banking system, that might cause them to adopt more readily than people in higher-income brackets with easy access to banks."

Building trust and knowledge

The report also notes that knowledge, trust and use of Bitcoin should largely benefit from having more discussions about blockchain technology, rather than focusing on Bitcoin as a currency.

"Developers, who arguably understand the technology best, are focused on implementation, not education," said Konieczka. "Meanwhile, from what I've observed, the groups that are 'educating' about Bitcoin tend to do so on the currency side, not the technology side, assuming the two can be decoupled."

According to him, the media should largely contribute in spreading knowledge. However, we should not rely on popular press, as they are fairly antagonistic, if not hostile to Bitcoin. In fact, the professor suggests that they should be "re-educated about the blockchain [separated from] Bitcoin, [the] currency."

How much do you personally know about Bitcoin?

He concluded:

"I don't know who should be leading the ‘blockchain education’ effort.  Thinking about it, perhaps it is best to define who we want to know what. Although the general public generally makes bad decisions about their Internet use (e.g., Facebook), the technology works fine without them knowing how it works. The same is true for cars, bridges, and shoes.

Perhaps it's not ‘public education’ writ large, but more targeted audiences that need education, such as business leaders, policy makers, regulators, and other parties that could unintentionally harm the emerging technology, or, in their ignorance, purposefully try to stop it.  However, at that point, the public comes back into the equation.

I don't necessarily have the key to solving the blockchain education problem, but I think it's important recognize that it is a problem, one that may grow in importance as Bitcoin gets more attention."

Other findings from the 2014 Survey of Bitcoin Polling report include:

  • Half of the general public favors banning Bitcoin, while large majorities strongly favor severe regulations;
  • The majority of people to date who own or have owned bitcoins acquired those coins absent a profit motive;
  • Sales with bitcoin are overwhelming novelty related, and used to purchase legal goods and services.

The full data set (i.e., survey questions and responses) is available at this link

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