14.7 million Americans plan to buy crypto in the next 12 months.
This year, cryptocurrencies have received more media attention and seen higher trading volume and prices. In addition, topics such as safety, liquidity and volatility have been hotly debated across cable news channels, message boards and family dinner tables.
The purpose of this report is to understand the knowledge, experience and ownership of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum by Americans. We asked over 1,200 U.S. adults about these topics, as well as the perceptions of benefits and risks of these digital assets. Here are our key findings:
- Nearly half of Americans consider themselves at least “somewhat familiar” with cryptocurrency. Eight percent of Americans have never heard of it, and 45 percent said they have heard of it, but don’t know much about it.
- Of those familiar with cryptocurrency, 31 percent own cryptocurrency already, while another 12 percent plan to buy it within the next 12 months. Therefore we estimate that 37.5 million Americans own cryptocurrency, and an additional 14.7 million intend to purchase it in the next year.
- The most commonly owned cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum.
- 78 percent of cryptocurrency owners are confident in cryptocurrency safety and security.
- Price fluctuation is both the biggest benefit and the biggest concern of respondents in regards to cryptocurrency. 33 percent believe that the possible price increases are the main benefit of cryptocurrency, while 39 percent note price instability as their greatest concern.
- Americans of all ages own cryptocurrency, although the majority, 93 percent, is concentrated among adults ages 18 to 60.
Table of Contents
Although the price of cryptocurrency peaked in the U.S. financial market in April 2021, 53 percent of U.S. adults either aren’t familiar with it or have never heard of it. Our research echoed previous research from Morning Consult that found that 67 percent of U.S. adults either didn’t know or weren’t familiar with Bitcoin specifically. Accordingly, people are 10 percent more likely to be familiar with cryptocurrency in general compared to Bitcoin, a specific type of cryptocurrency.
|How familiar are you with cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|Never heard of it||8%|
|Heard of it, but I’m not familiar||45%|
In general, awareness and familiarity with cryptocurrency is at an all-time high, according to Google Trends data for the search term “cryptocurrency”.
Currently, 37.5 million U.S. adults own cryptocurrency, while another 14.7 million plan to purchase it within the next 12 months.
|Do you own any cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|Yes, I currently own some||31%|
|No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months||12%|
|No, but I might consider it in the future||42%|
|No, and I don’t ever plan to purchase any||15%|
Our data aligns with information from the cryptocurrency platform Gemini. In their 2021 State of U.S. Crypto Report, they found that 14 percent of the entire U.S. economy owns cryptocurrency; we found the number to be 15 percent across all familiarity levels.
Out of the crypto-owners, about a third first bought cryptocurrency in 2021, while another third first bought it in 2020, consistent with the sharp increase in Google searches for the word “cryptocurrency” beginning in the fall of 2020.
|What year did you buy your first cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|2015 or before||9%|
|2016 – 2017||15%|
|2018 – 2019||16%|
The least likely age group to own cryptocurrency was adults ages 60 and older; only 13 percent of this group owned cryptocurrency currently, while all other age groups own it at rates between 30 and 40 percent.
|Do you own any cryptocurrency?||Ages 18-29||Ages 30-44||Ages 45-60||Ages 60+|
|Yes, I currently own some||35%||40%||31%||13%|
|No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months||17%||12%||14%||3%|
|No, but I might consider it in the future||41%||37%||45%||44%|
|No, and I don’t ever plan to purchase any||7%||11%||11%||39%|
Males are more likely than females to own cryptocurrency by eight percent. However, when it came to gender, our data differed from the Gemini data; while Gemini found that 74 percent of crypto-owners were men and 26 percent were women, we found that 57 percent were men and 43 percent were women, a more equitable distribution.
|Do you own any cryptocurrency?||Male responses||Female responses|
|Yes, I currently own some||35%||27%|
|No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months||13%||11%|
|No, but I might consider it in the future||38%||45%|
|No, and I don’t ever plan to purchase any||14%||16%|
We also asked crypto-owners what type of currency they owned. By far, the most popular cryptocurrency owned was Bitcoin at 73 percent, followed by Dogecoin at 46 percent and Ethereum at 38 percent.
|Which cryptocurrencies do you currently own? (Select all that apply.)||Responses|
|Other (please specify)||8%|
Despite the potential storage and accessibility issues, 78 percent of crypto-owners said they were somewhat to very confident in the safety and security of their cryptocurrency.
|How confident are you in the safety and security of your cryptocurrency?||Responses|
According to our research, a quarter of crypto-owners have had issues accessing their cryptocurrency.
|Have you ever had issues accessing your cryptocurrency?||Responses|
The most common reason for losing access to cryptocurrency was a lost or forgotten password, which caused nearly half of all incidents. However, even cryptocurrency stored as physical items like paper and coins weren’t immune to accessibility issues; one in five crypto-owners has lost access due to lost or damaged devices, papers, or coinage.
|What caused you to lose access to your cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|Lost/damaged device, paper, or coinage||21%|
|Other (please specify)||17%|
A phishing attack can lead to a stolen password; learn how to make secure passwords to keep your cryptocurrency safe.
Fortunately, 75 percent of people were able to retrieve their currency; less than one in five wasn’t able to retrieve it, while another nearly one in five is still trying to gain access.
|Were you able to retrieve your cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|I’m still trying||6%|
Part of our research also focused on respondents who said they don’t own cryptocurrency currently and don’t plan on buying it. The most common reason for non-ownership, present and future, is distrust of digital security at 26 percent. 25 percent of people think that the values are too unstable, while only two percent were worried that they could lose access.
|What is the main reason you don’t currently own cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|I don’t trust the digital security||26%|
|The values are too unstable||25%|
|It’s not protected by insurance or government oversight||22%|
|I don’t understand it enough||16%|
|Other (please specify)||10%|
|I could lose access||2%|
Given that one in four crypto-owners has had issues with access, it’s clear that people are underestimating the difficulties of storing and accessing their cryptocurrency.
Is Cryptocurrency Here To Stay?
Out of those familiar with cryptocurrency, respondents were divided on whether people would still be using it in the next 10 years. 52 percent said they were somewhat to very certain it will be used, while 49 percent were somewhat to very uncertain that it will be used in this time period.
|How certain are you that most people will be using cryptocurrency in the next 10 years?||Responses|
The greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency was its unstable value at nearly 40 percent, followed by a lack of government or bank insight at 24 percent overall.
|What is your greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|Unprotected by government or bank oversight||24%|
|Hard to trade||10%|
|Other (please specify)||5%|
We found that men were significantly more concerned about value stability than women. While 45 percent of men said value stability is their biggest concern, only 33 percent of women chose it as their highest. Women were significantly more concerned than men about lack of protection from government or bank oversight; while 29 percent of females chose this option as their highest concern, only 18 percent of men did.
|What is your greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency?||Male responses||Female responses|
|Unprotected by government or bank oversight||18%||29%|
|Hard to trade||11%||9%|
|Other (please specify)||6%||3%|
The biggest benefit, ironically, was potential price increases at 33 percent, compared to avoiding banking and transaction fees at 22 percent.
|Which of these do you believe is the greatest benefit of cryptocurrency?||Responses|
|Potential price increases||33%|
|Avoiding banking/transaction fees||22%|
|Investments are out of bank and government oversight||20%|
|Other (please specify)||5%|
Note that some cryptocurrency storage platforms involve cryptocurrency transactions.
According to our respondents, the major issues with cryptocurrency are the same as its benefits, fluctuating values, and lack of oversight. While being able to avoid banking fees is nice for the crypto-owner, it creates potential accessibility issues that many potential owners may not have considered. Learn more about how to store Bitcoin securely in cryptocurrency wallets like a paper wallet, hot wallets, digital wallets, cold storage, and other options.
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether or not you want to invest in cryptocurrency, but clearly, the cryptocurrency market is only growing, so if you want to hold cryptocurrency, make sure to store it securely in crypto wallets with private keys. Only share your wallet address on peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchanges, and don’t share it on social media, nor any information about your digital currencies.
We asked 1,289 U.S. adults about their knowledge, ownership, and experience with cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. Out of the respondents, 612 owned cryptocurrency currently; 314 were men and 298 were women. The survey took place in May 2021. All respondents were 18 and older and agreed to participate in SurveyMonkey surveys.
We also used data from Gemini, Statista, Morning Consult, and Google Trends to put our cryptocurrency security research into context. Our population estimates are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Author: Aliza Vigderman