- Bitcoin ownership tripled in the US between 2018 and 2021, a Gallup survey found.
- Young, male investors were the greatest adopters, while women and older people are less involved.
- The percentage of Americans calling bitcoin "very risky" fell from 75% to 60%.
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The percentage of Americans holding bitcoin tripled between 2018 and 2021, and the majority of bitcoin investors view the cryptocurrency as a high-risk asset, a Gallup survey revealed this week.
The survey found that 6% of US investors – adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds – say they own bitcoin, up from 2% in 2018.
Ownership rose by over 10 percentage points to 13% among investors aged 18 to 49. It remained minimal among investors aged 50 and older, with 3% now saying they own it versus 1% three years ago.
"Three years ago, a very small percentage of investors reported owning bitcoin, most reported having little knowledge of it, and majorities — regardless of gender or age — expressed limited interest in ever buying it," Gallup said. "Since then, the price of bitcoin has grown by over 300%, well outpacing the market's roughly 40% increase over the same period."
As investment in bitcoin has grown, so has people's understanding of it. The percentage of respondents in the survey that called bitcoin "very risky" fell to 60% this year from 75% in 2018, the survey showed. Just 5% said it was "not too risky" or "not risky at all."
The percentage of US investors who have heard or know about crypto now stands at 36% – 9 percentage points higher than in 2018. Male investors reported the greatest jump in familiarity, with 55% saying they understand it versus 38% in 2018. Only 24% of women said they understood it this year, compared with 20% three years ago, the survey showed.
Younger investors also reported a strong increase in familiarity. A full 62% of those aged 18 to 49 said they understood it now, versus 48% in 2018.
"Perhaps as a result, bitcoin is inching closer to general acceptance among US investors, particularly with those under age 50. Not only do 13% of these relatively young investors own it, but their familiarity with it and willingness to buy it have risen to majority levels," the report said.
Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, has increased by nearly 240% since last July to trade around $32,300. That's down from a record above $64,000 three months ago, but it's tripled in value since Gallup's last poll in mid-2018.
Bitcoin is known for being volatile, which has caused many to question how reliable it might be as a long-term investment and whether it can ever replace fiat currencies, as its creators originally intended.
"It needs to be much less volatile. It would destroy nations to do it. So right now, it's great as a long-term saving vehicle, payment rails, and all the other things we're using crypto for, but as a currency for everything, no," Raoul Paul, CEO of RealVision, a financial-media platform, told Insider.
The Gallup survey recorded little change in understanding among investors over 50. The percentage that said they were familiar with bitcoin rose to 34% from 26% in 2018 – but 58% said they had no interest in ever buying bitcoin.
"Stocks, bonds and mutual funds remain the dominant types of investments for investors of all age groups. Thus, for now, it appears bitcoin is an ancillary purchase for investors trying to supplement their portfolio and not a replacement for more traditional securities," Gallup said.