When Tony Richards, head of payment policy at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), read the results of the recent Finder’s Crypto Report survey indicating that nearly one in five Australians owned crypto, there was no believed for a second.
However, the results had already been widely published across the country, making headlines for weeks. They even made their way into the recent Senate Committee on Australia as the Tech and Financial Center’s final report in October.
Welcome to the statistically dubious world of cryptocurrency surveys – an easy way for businesses to advertise by peddling survey results, but not necessarily a great way to stay informed.
The August Finder survey claimed that 17% of Australians own at least one cryptocurrency – 9% own Bitcoin, 8% own Ether and 5% own Dogecoin.
Is the figure plausible?
Richards questioned these figures in his speech to the Australian Corporate Treasury Association on November 18, saying he finds them “somewhat implausible”.
“I can’t help but think that the online polls they are based on might not be representative of the population,” he said.
Tony Richards, Payments Policy Officer at the Reserve Bank of Australia, said crypto’s growth in 2021 was “no doubt fueled by influencers and celebrity tweets.”
– CoinzProfit (@CoinzProfit) November 19, 2021
He referred to “significant segments of the population,” including the elderly, people living in regional areas and those without reliable internet access, that the online survey panels ” do not understand well ”.
His point echoes a similar sentiment described by Dr Chittaranjan Andrade in his 2020 report for the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, where he says online survey samples are often unrepresentative, regardless of the subject.
Online surveys are only completed by people “biased enough to care about the topic; Otherwise, why would they take the time and the trouble to respond? ” he wrote.
But Finder head of consumer research Graham Cooke defended the methodology, telling Cointelegraph:
“Respondents are selected on the basis of age, gender and location to create a sample that accurately reflects the expected results of a comprehensive national survey. “
“We are convinced that this produces a reliable and representative sample of the population,” he added.
In the 15-page report summarizing the survey results, there are only a few lines at the end to explain the methodology. He says: “Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker is a nationally representative survey conducted each month of 1,000 Australians, with more than 27,400 respondents between May 2019 and July 2021.
The survey is being conducted by Qualtrics, a data processing systems and product applications (SAP) company. The Qualtrics website boasts that “in just ten weeks, Finder increased brand awareness by 23%”, but there was no additional information regarding the methodology of the survey and did not provide any. none at the request of Cointelegraph.
A spokesperson for Finder was able to confirm to Cointelegraph that: “Qualtrics collects respondents from various panels and can be enticed in different ways. Some receive a small fee for their participation, some earn a charitable donation, for example. “
Different surveys have distant estimates of 2 million people
This is not to be particularly critical of Finder’s investigation: there seems to be a new investigation every day, and their findings are often at odds with each other.
Take the YouGov survey commissioned by Australian crypto exchange Swyftx, which found the number of Australians who own crypto is closer to 25%. The July survey collected responses from 2,768 adult Australians, and the figures were weighted using estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This survey was found to comply with the Australian Council’s Code of Surveys.
However, the two surveys cannot be correct. Australia’s population is 25.69 million. This means that 17% of Finder’s Australian population equates to roughly 4.37 million people. Meanwhile, Swyftx’s 25% represents around 6.42 million people.
The difference between the two estimates translates to just over two million people, more than the entire population of South Australia.
The numbers don’t seem to be reflected on local platforms either. Crypto trading platform Binance Australia told Cointelegraph that it has 700,000 users, Easy Crypto Australia has said it has around 15,000 users, Swyftx has 470,000 (many overseas). BTC Markets has over 330,000 Australian users and the Independent Reserve site claims 200,000 users.
Digital Surge, eToro, Coinspot, and Coinmama did not respond with user numbers.
Not all Australians use a local exchange to trade their crypto of course, but on the other hand, a significant proportion of users are registered with multiple local exchanges. There appears to be a discrepancy of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, between the survey results and the trading accounts.
That said, Jonathon Miller, Australian managing director of Kraken Exchange, said his platform provided figures similar to Finder in the YouGov market research in May.
The sample for this survey included 1,027 Australians aged 18 and over, weighted by age, sex and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.
He revealed that one in five Australians (19%) owned or currently owns a cryptocurrency, and 14% (2.78 million) currently have a crypto wallet.
Speaking to the Finder investigation, Miller said, “I don’t think it’s going to be that far. The point is that these surveys are probably representative.
“If those numbers aren’t quite right today, they will be tomorrow. I think it is true that one in five Australians owns a crypto.
How much BTC do I have to pay you to say you trust BTC?
One issue that could affect the results of crypto-related surveys is that respondents to some of these surveys are in fact paid in crypto.
On November 18, a Premise Data survey of 11,000 participants in 76 countries claimed that 41% of people globally trust Bitcoin (BTC) against local currencies.
The catch is that a separate survey of Premise’s “contributors” two months earlier reported that 23% of its contributor base was paid in BTC, and since 2016 the data collection company has paid over $ 1 million in Bitcoin via Coinbase to investigate participants in 137 countries around the world.
Senior researcher at the Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research, Nicole Watson told Cointelegraph that “paying someone in Bitcoin to respond to a cryptocurrency survey would skew the result.”
“People who know what Bitcoin is and want it would be more likely to participate,” she said. In short, they will not reflect the entire population.
Cointelegraph contacted Premise about their investigative methodology, but received no response.
What makes a survey reliable?
In Watson’s view, online-only surveys are not representative of the general population.
“Recruiting an online sample is likely to bias the sample in favor of people who spend more time online, visit certain websites, or use certain apps, depending on where the invite to participate was placed and who might to see her. “
She explained that a person’s participation in a survey can be influenced by who leads it, what it is, how long it will take and what (if any) incentives are offered, which can skew the results. results.
“For a new technology like cryptocurrency, you can see how many of these factors could lead to a biased result.”
For research conducted in Australia, a good way to know if the results are reliable is to check if it has received an “Australian Survey Council quality mark”. In the UK you can check whether the polling company is a member of the British Polling Council (BPC) and in the US, the National Council on Public Polls.
The Australian Polling Council says any meaningful survey or poll should include a “lengthy methodological statement”, including additional information such as weighting methods, actual sample size and margin of error.