When Tony Richards, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Head of Payments Policy, saw the latest poll findings from Finder’s Crypto Report, he couldn’t believe it.
The findings, on the other hand, had been widely publicised across the country for weeks, adorning the front pages of newspapers. They even made it into the October final report of the Senate Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Center.
Welcome to the statistically questionable world of bitcoin surveys. A simple method for firms to gain notoriety by marketing survey findings, but not always a good way to keep informed.
According to a Finder poll conducted in August, 17% of Australians possess at least one cryptocurrency, including 9% owning Bitcoin, 8% owning Ether, and 5% owning Dogecoin.
Is the number credible?
Richards questioned these estimates in his Nov. 18 talk to the Australia Corporate Treasury Association, calling them “rather improbable”.
“I can’t help but assume the online polls on which they’re based aren’t representative of the public”, he remarked.
He cited “significant sectors of the population” that online survey panels “do not capture adequately”. Such as the elderly, persons residing in remote locations, and those without dependable internet connection.
Dr. Chittaranjan Andrade made a similar remark in a 2020 study for the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, claiming that internet survey samples are generally unrepresentative, regardless of the issue.
Only persons who are “sufficiently prejudiced to be interested in the issue; why else would they take the time and effort to answer”, he argued, complete online questionnaires.
“The respondents are chosen based on their age, gender, and region to form a sample that accurately represents the findings of a full national poll.”
He continued, “We are sure that this creates a reliable sample that is representative of the population.”
There are simply a few sentences explaining methodology at the conclusion of the 15-page report summarising survey findings. “Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker is a continuous nationally representative poll of 1,000 Australians per month, with over 27,400 respondents between May 2019 and July 2021,” the company said.
Qualtrics, a Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing (SAP) firm, is conducting the research. “Finder boosted brand awareness 23% in only ten weeks”, according to Qualtrics’ website, although no other information about survey methodology was provided.
Various surveys speculate 2M people apart
This isn’t to single out Finder’s survey for special criticism. It seems like a new poll issued every day, and their results regularly conflict.
Consider a YouGov research commissioned by Swyftx, an Australian crypto exchange, which found that the number of Australians who possess cryptocurrency is closer to 25%. The figures were weighted using Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates, and the survey collected responses from 2,768 adults in July. This survey was verified to follow the Australian Polling Council Code.
Both surveys, however, cannot be right. Australia’s population is 25.69 million people. As a result, Finder’s 17% of Australia’s population equals around 4.37 million individuals. Swyftx’s 25% represents around 6.42 million people.
The figures do not appear to be mirrored on local platforms
The gap between the two figures is slightly over two million people, which is greater than South Australia’s whole population.
The figures do not appear to be mirrored on local platforms, either. Binance Australia claimed 700,000 users, Easy Crypto claimed 15,000 users, and Swyftx claimed 470,000 users (many from overseas). BTC Markets claims to have over 330 000 Australian customers, whereas Independent Reserve claims 200,000.
No user numbers were provided by Digital Surge, eToro, Coinspot, or Coinmama.
Of course, not everyone in Australia uses a local exchange to trade their cryptocurrency. But a sizable percentage of users have accounts with various local exchanges. The difference between poll results and exchange accounts looks to be in the hundreds of thousands. If not millions of dollars.
However, Kraken exchange’s Australian managing director, Jonathon Miller, claimed his platform’s numbers in YouGov market research in May were identical to Finder’s.
The survey sample consisted of 1,027 Australians aged 18 and above. With the data weighted by age, gender, and region to reflect the most recent ABS population estimates.
The findings revealed that one in every five Australians (19%) had owned or currently owns a cryptocurrency. With 14% (2.78 million) having a cryptocurrency portfolio.
How many BTC do I need to give you to believe in BTC?
One issue that may be impacting the findings of crypto-related polls is that some respondents are receiving compensation in cryptocurrency.
According to a Premise Data poll of 11,000 people in 76 countries, 41% of respondents trust Bitcoin (BTC) above native currencies.
The catch was that, according to a separate survey of Premise’s “contributors” conducted two months prior, 23% of the company’s contributor base received payment in Bitcoin. And since 2016, the data collection firm has paid out over $1 million in Bitcoin via Coinbase. In order to survey participants in 137 countries worldwide.
“Paying someone Bitcoin to take a survey regarding cryptocurrencies would prejudice the result”, said Nicole Watson, a Principal Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
“People who are aware of Bitcoin and desire some are more inclined to participate,” she explained. To put it another way, they won’t be representative of the general public.
What makes a survey reliable?
Online-only polls, in Watson’s perspective, do not represent the general public.
“Online sampling is likely to bias the sample towards those who spend more time online, visit certain websites, or use specific applications, depending on where the offer to participate is available and who may see it.”
She emphasised who is conducting the survey, what it is about, how long it will take. As well as what incentives are provided (if any) can all impact someone’s willingness to participate. All of this has the potential to skew the outcomes.
On research conducted in Australia, looking for an “Australian Polling Council Quality Mark” is a good way to tell if the results are trustworthy. You may see if the polling company is a member of the British Polling Council (BPC) or the National Council on Public Polls in the United States.
Any survey or poll worth its salt, according to the Australian Polling Council, should give a “complete methodological statement”. That includes facts like weighting techniques, effective sample size, and margin of error.