In a recent study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers provide evidence that cryptocurrency technology, specifically its current adopters in the United States, tends to align more closely with conservative moral values rather than liberal ones.
The world of cryptocurrency, often associated with decentralized financial systems, has surged in popularity in recent years. While many view it as a tool for financial freedom, its underlying motivations have remained relatively unexplored in academic circles. Prior research has examined the financial and technological aspects of cryptocurrencies but has largely ignored their sociopolitical implications.
Researchers at the University of Utah and Toronto Metropolitan University ventured into a study to understand the moral foundations of crypto advocates. Given the divisive nature of discussions surrounding cryptocurrency — with enthusiasts often promoting it as a solution to many economic woes — the study was rooted in understanding societal and political inclinations behind the topic.
In their research, the team analyzed a large set of tweets related to Bitcoin and conducted a controlled survey — overall, unpacking information learned across two studies. In the first study, a total of 959,393 tweets regarding crypto were analyzed for their usage of moral-language (such as words like “pure”, “impure”, and “theft”).
In the second study, a total of 500 participants, all based in the United States, were recruited through a study recruiting website called Prolific. 487 passed all attention checks and were included in the analysis, with 297 women and 190 men, averaging 37 years old. All of them answered a series of questions probing interest and attitudes towards cryptocurrency.
Then, researchers compared the alignment of crypto enthusiasts with what are known as “binding moral foundations” (Authority, Purity, and Loyalty) – typically associated with political conservatives – to “individualizing foundations” (Fairness and Care) which are often linked to liberals.
The findings were revealing. Crypto enthusiasts, especially in the U.S., seem to resonate more with the conservative values of Authority, Purity, and Loyalty than the liberal ideals of Fairness and Care. In simpler terms, those with an interest in cryptocurrency, based on tweet analysis and survey results, showed a stronger alignment with the moral values often held by political conservatives. This suggests that the appeal of cryptocurrencies might be deeply rooted in these moral principles, potentially influencing adoption decisions.
The researchers concluded that “our findings document convergent evidence indicating that crypto is best understood as ‘right-wing tech’ more closely aligned with conservative moral foundations at the current stage of adoption. Our analyses of a large set of Bitcoin tweets and a controlled survey indicate that binding moral foundations (Authority, Purity, and Loyalty) that are more closely associated with political conservatives better reflect one’s interest in cryptocurrency than individualizing foundations (Fairness and Care).”
However, it’s essential to understand the scope of these findings. While the research provides a novel insight into the moral alignments of cryptocurrency users, it’s mainly correlational. This means while there’s a noticeable link between conservative values and crypto interest, it doesn’t necessarily imply a direct causation. Also, this study primarily focused on crypto advocates within the U.S., so extrapolating these findings to a global audience might not be entirely accurate.
Furthermore, the research centered more on understanding the majority – those investing and showing interest in cryptocurrency. It didn’t dive deeply into the actions of a minority, like fraudulent businesses trying to scam investors. And while cryptocurrency’s decentralized and open-record nature might seem a deterrent for dishonest activities, it doesn’t mean dishonesty is entirely absent.
Sachin Banker of University of Utah, alongside Joowon Park and Eugene Chan of Toronto Metropolitan University, authored this study — titled “The moral foundations of cryptocurrency: evidence from Twitter and survey research“.