Bitcoin, despite its and other cryptocurrencies’ struggles throughout this year, appears to remain an attractive alternative to the current financial system (in the U.K., at least).
A bitcoin survey, carried out by respected pollsters YouGov, has found that one in five people in the U.K. think bitcoin will be “as common as cash or card” payments in future—just as bitcoin celebrated its 10th birthday last month.
The survey found that, while bitcoin is still a relatively new technology, nine out of ten (93%) of people in the U.K. say they have heard of bitcoin—with just over one in five (23%) say they understand it “fairly” well.
Currently, bitcoin is all but unused for payments either over the internet or in brick-and-mortar stores and the survey found that four in ten (43%) of people in the U.K. expect that status quo to continue, saying they do not think cryptocurrencies will ever be as common as cash or card. A third (34%) don’t know.
Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and their underlying blockchain technology, have over the last two years become a part of the economy and culture, in a way comparable to the rapid rise of the internet in the early 1990s.
Last year’s bull run meant a raft of bitcoin mentions in film, TV, and music as producers both praised and attacked the digital currency—that made many overnight millionaires and brought on the ire of the established financial industry.
Public awareness has been a major driver of the bitcoin price, which last year ballooned to almost $20,000 from around $1,000 per coin at the beginning of the year. The bitcoin price has since fallen back, dragging most other major cryptocurrencies with it, and is now trading at around $6,500.
In August U.S. rapper Eminem mentioned bitcoin in his latest album—a sign that bitcoin is slowly penetrating to different levels of society and out of the financial, fintech bubble it’s existed in for the last 10 years.
In the UK, a cryptocurrency called whipcoin featured in the storyline of British soap opera Coronation Street, a TV programme watched by some eight million people per episode.
On the animated cartoon comedy “Family Guy”, the show’s main character Peter Griffin suggests bitcoin as a solution to his family’s financial trouble. In “Dope”, a 2015 American comedy-drama movie, the main character begins selling drugs online using bitcoin. On the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”, the gang search for a lost laptop which held bitcoin that Sheldon and his friends purchased seven years earlier.
One of the key principles behind cryptocurrencies is the notion that their value is controlled not by a central institution, but by the people using it.
However, YouGov’s research shows people in the U.K. are seven times more likely to say they feel “very negative” about the notion of a type of currency controlled by the people using it than “very positive” (20% vs 3%), and twice as likely to feel “fairly negative” (20%) than “fairly positive” (9%).