One in five adults has invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency, NBC News poll shows

A Bitcoin logo inside a BitBase cryptocurrency exchange in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday, March 17, 2022.
Angel Navarrete | Bloomberg | Getty Images

One in five Americans has invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency, a new NBC News poll found, another sign that digital assets continue to get more popular even as lawmakers warn of market risks and work to regulate the industry.

Half of men between the ages of 18 and 49 said they have dabbled in crypto, the highest share of all demographic groups.

Forty percent of Black Americans said they have traded or used crypto, while 42% all people between the ages of 18 and 34 years said the same.

The fact that 21% of the 1,000 Americans polled said they have at least once used or invested in crypto shows how much the relatively young industry has taken off in recent years. Digital assets have spread as Capitol Hill works to introduce a new rules for the market.

Crypto advocates say assets like bitcoin, Ethereum and stablecoins offer better transaction speeds, lower costs, privacy, security and an opportunity to provide underbanked communities with financial services.

But without a major legislative effort, the crypto market still looks like the “Wild West,” according to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler. That may be why only 19% of those polled by NBC News said they view crypto positively and 25% indicated they view it in a negative light.

The majority — some 56% — said they feel neutral or that they aren’t sure about the crypto industry.

Still, the market for crypto has grown so large that President Joe Biden earlier this month signed an executive order directing relevant government agencies to study its risks and benefits.

While the administration voiced concerns about potential fraud and the financing of illegal activities, it also made clear that the U.S. has a geopolitical interest in developing the infrastructure and oversight to monitor crypto.

While Republicans and Democrats both acknowledge the potential benefits of a crypto market now worth trillions, many warn that a lack of federal oversight leaves consumers open to scams and dangerous price volatility.

Even bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, isn’t immune from wild price fluctuations: It has fallen 20% over the past year.

All signs point to Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a freshman lawmaker from Wyoming and a crypto-industry supporter, introducing a major crypto bill in the coming weeks. Her legislation is thought to include input from a range of government agencies and opinions from the industry.

Investors and crypto exchanges have repeatedly asked Congress to offer guidance on which assets belong to varied classes, protections for retail investors and clarity on the jurisdiction of the SEC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Reserve.

The NBC News poll surveyed 1,000 adults from March 18 to March 22 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.

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