Purpose of post
As part of the EA Strategy Fortnight, we want to compile some survey results addressing how FTX has impacted the EA brand—particularly people’s sentiments towards EA. From the research we have on attitudes toward EA from the EA community, the general public, and university students, it seems that the FTX crash hasn’t, overall, impacted sentiments toward EA very much.
This is not to say that FTX has not significantly impacted people in many ways, including mental and emotional health, levels of trust in EA leadership, and increased uncertainty in EA as a movement. We hope compiling these survey results will help contextualize our individual experiences and improve our understanding of general attitudes toward EA.
The EA Community
In December 2022, Rethink Priorities ran a survey to gauge how the FTX crisis affected EA community members’ attitudes toward the EA movement, organizations, and leadership (fuller results of that survey from Rethink are here).
- Results demonstrated that FTX had decreased satisfaction by 0.5-1 points on a 10-point scale within the EA community, but overall community sentiment remained positive at ~7.5/10.
- Around half of the respondents reported that the FTX crisis gave them concerns with EA meta-organizations, the EA community and its norms, and the leaders of EA meta-organizations.
- More respondents agreed that the EA community had responded well to the crisis so far (47%) than disagreed (21%), though roughly a third of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed with this.
- Most respondents reported continuing to trust EA organizations, though over 30% said they had substantially lost trust in EA public figures or leadership.
The CEA groups team surveyed some university group organizers regarding the states of their individual groups in May 2023. From November 2022 to February 2023, Rethink commissioned a survey to measure campus awareness of EA and whether students’ awareness of EA was because of FTX.
- When CEA polled university group organizers, they gave an average response of 3.8/10 to “How worried are you about how your group is perceived on campus?” Only two organizers mentioned FTX, and both of them only did so to state that they haven’t seen impacts from FTX—though one said that this might change in the fall.
- The vast majority of students interviewed on campuses did not mention FTX when asked where and when they heard about EA, and only 13/233 (5.6%) respondents who had encountered EA found FTX or SBF salient enough to mention when interviewed.
- Most respondents to Rethink's survey hadn't encountered EA. Of those who had (233), only 13 (1.1% of total respondents) referred to FTX/SBF explicitly or obliquely when asked what they think effective altruism means or where and when they first heard of it.
Rethink ran surveys pre- and post-FTX assessing awareness of and feelings towards EA in the US general public and later in more elite (educated and informed) US groups in February-March (post-FTX).
- Awareness of EA remains low, and ~99% of people who were aware of EA did not mention FTX.
- Among those aware of EA, attitudes remain positive and actually maybe increased post-FTX —though they were lower (d = -1.5, with large uncertainty) among those who were additionally aware of FTX.
- This does not suggest that there has not been a worsening in attitudes towards EA among those highly familiar with EA and FTX, only that most people are not familiar with both EA and FTX.
Major Donor Impacts
While not a formal survey, we thought it might be useful to include some info about how major EA donors have responded. This is primarily anecdotal information from people fundraising for EV-related entities.
- By far the biggest impact is just that FTX Foundation isn’t donating money anymore,
- A couple of significant donors are more cautious about funding EA movement-building because of FTX, a few others are consciously stepping up their funding to compensate for the funding drop, most are largely unchanged.
- One organization reported that interest in donating has actually increased (possibly due to increased general interest in longtermist causes and/or their organization having more of a track record)
- My best guess is that cause-specific fundraising has been almost not impacted at all and EA community building has been be mildly to moderately impacted (beyond the obviously major impact of FTX not donating anymore)
Factors not tested in these surveys
- Other recent community situations on sentiment toward EA
- General continued perception of EA as “weird”
- EA’s emphasis on STEM work, particularly in AI
- Most people in the general population not knowing about EA
- Continued interest in EA principles and philosophy
- The EA brand being “punchable” and whether it attracts people toward key causes
- The fact that most people don't really care much about EA is both a blessing and a curse. But either way, it's a fact of life; and even as we internally try to learn what lessons we can from FTX, we should keep in mind that people outside EA mostly can't be bothered to pay attention.
- An incident rate in the single digit percents means that most community builders will have at least one example of someone raising FTX-related concerns—but our guess is that negative brand-related reactions are more likely to come from things like EA's perceived affiliation with tech or earning to give than FTX.
- We have some uncertainty about how well these results generalize outside the sample populations. E.g. we have heard claims that people who work in policy were unusually spooked by FTX. That seems plausible to us, though Ben would guess that policy EAs similarly overestimate the extent to which people outside EA care about EA drama.
Rethink plans on conducting a followup survey to this survey, as referenced here.
Our understanding is that Rethink is planning to publish more information about this and the next survey soon