Bitcoin Is Surging. Americans Still Don’t Get How It Works

A new survey shows that significant swathes of the population do not understand or trust cryptocurrencies.

By  | Bloomberg | Feb 19, 2021

Mainstream financial institutions have started embracing cryptocurrencies. Main Street hasn’t.

More than one in 10 American adults have never heard of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin, according to a new survey by the Harris Poll. The data was provided to Bloomberg during a week when the value of a Bitcoin soared beyond $52,000 for the first time.

Nearly half of respondents had only heard the names of those coins, whereas 16% said they were very familiar with the cryptocurrencies and 28% said they were somewhat familiar, according to the survey of 1,984 people taken from Feb. 12 to 14.

“From the public standpoint, it’s not a cryptocurrency, it’s a cryptic-currency,” said John Gerzema, chief executive officer of the Harris Poll.

Most people who have heard of cryptocurrencies don’t totally get them: 61% of people who had heard of the coins said they had little or no understanding of how they work. Only 14% of those familiar with crypto said they understand “very well” how they work. (If you are one of the majority who could use a primer, we have one for you here.)

Bitcoin’s rally has stunned observers and left critics counting down the hours before a fall. Of the people familiar with cryptocurrencies, 4% say they think Bitcoin will fall to $0, while 8% say they see it heading above $100,000.

Trust remains another factor. Among people familiar with cryptocurrencies, some 43% expressed doubts about their legitimacy as a form of payment. And 29% think crypto will largely be forgotten in 10 years, whereas 34% believe it will become a standard form of payment.

In recent months, companies including Mastercard Inc. and Tesla Inc. have said they plan to begin processing payments in cryptocurrencies. Few people actually use bitcoin to make purchases. Only 10% of people familiar with crypto said they regularly make purchases with it.

Across demographic groups, age wasn’t necessarily the biggest indicator of faith in crypto. For instance, while 58% of Gen Z respondents (defined as between 18 and 24 years old) who knew about crypto said they thought digital currencies were very or somewhat legitimate as a form of payment, this figure rose to 69% for millennials (between 25 and 40 years old).

Gerzema said millennials may be operating as something of a bridge between baby boomers and Gen Z. Millennials are tech savvy and comfortable with digital financial products like the younger cohort, but are also starting to have more investible assets.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.