Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

The Tech Industry's Dirty Little Secret

If there is any post that would ever cost me readers, unfortunately it's probably this one. For the record, I am a 25 year old male who is registered in Arizona as a Republican. I consider myself a moderate Republican, and you can expect my views as expressed in this post to be filtered through that lens.

There's a dirty little secret in the tech industry. For having such a wide spectrum of ideas when it comes to building cool technologies, and for the diversity of individuals in the technology field, there is not so much diversity of thought when it comes to politics in technology. It's a well-known but little-discussed fact that most people in the tech sector consider themselves Democrats.

At no time in my life was that fact ever more apparent then after reading the always thought-provoking Todd Bishop's post on tech employee donations to the 2008 Presidential candidates. Todd's article focused mostly on how Microsoft shaped up with the rest of the major tech companies, and didn't break anything down by political party. We all know how I love crunching numbers in different ways, so I took the data from Todd's crack analyst and started playing around with it.

The data that resulted was quite interesting, to say the least. I don't know if any conclusions can be drawn right now, because of the fact that it's still too dang early in the process, and there are wise people out there who are waiting for the field to narrow before donating their money. Personally, I think it's insanely ridiculous to be doing this election crap so early. Many of these people are already elected officials, and they should be taking the next year and do what they were elected to do. I didn't realize New York State elected Hillary Clinton last year for the sole purpose of enabling her presidential campaign.

But that's beside the point. So anyway, the first thing I did was to divide the candidates up by political party. To do this, I used the 2008 election page on Wikipedia. Then, I had to redo the table to allow a more direct comparison of what each company's employees gave to each candidate, and total up the contributions for each candidate. That would give a representation of who these companies think should lead the country. I then reordered the candidates by amount contributed, with the winner on top.

The results are very interesting, but not really surprising. If the election were based on money raised as of today, Hillary Clinton would beat Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. She'd also beat out Republican candidate Mitt Romney for the Presidency.

I purposely left out the totals from the first chart, so that I could make a much more straightforward comparison below. Using the reorganized data above, I wanted to get a clear picture of how much each company's employees gave to each party, and see the difference in spending for each company. The results may or may not surprise you.

The it's still too early in the game to draw concrete conclusions, but here's the patterns I see thus far. As Todd already determined, Google's employees are by far the most politically active, with Microsoft coming in a relatively close second, and IBM in third. Microsoft had by far the most people contribute to the Republican party, but there was still an enormous relative gap in spending between the two parties over at everyone's favorite Collective.

What really shocked me was the gap in spending between the political parties at Google and Yahoo. Yahoo didn't have a single soul contribute to the Republican party, which means that right-leaning employees either smart to wait it out, or they simply don't exist. Only time will tell which one it is.

Almost as shocking was the fact that the Republicans are currently winning at both Apple and Adobe. I don't think you can draw any conclusions from that yet, though. One contributor could easily turn the tides at both companies, and it seems that employees on both sides of the ideological fence are waiting for the process to separate the wheat from the chaff (although that colorful phrase suggests there are amazing candiates in the field, a view which I don't share as of yet).

As I said, it's too early to come to absolute conclusions, especially when you take into account that there are only 8 companies in this table. But whatever your political leaning, you have to admit that at face value, it's hard to deny that there is an ideological gulf in the Tech sector when the Dems have been given 6X more money by employees in the sector than Republicans. It's just too bad that there isn't more diversity of political views in our tech workplaces.

I'll be following this data over the next 18 months to see the trends that emerge as more employees start investing in their candidates of choice. Will the Democratic Domination continue? Probably. Tech jobs still usually require a higher level of education, and there is growing evidence that many of today's educational institutions are left-leaning. The open source movement stems from ideas that live on the left side of the ideological spectrum, and Open Source is definitely not going away either. It will be very interesting to see the trends after the election is over next year. Hopefully the conclusions then will be different. Because different viewpoints are good, right?

You can go ahead and flame me now.

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Comments

  • suril89 said:

    Actually, I'm glad to see a republican up in the tech world, there aren't too many.  I'm a independant conservative (far right) myself.  I agree with you that  it's way too early in the race to be donating really.

    I think why there is such a donation difference between republicans and democrats right now is because there is no real reason for the republicans to donate right now.  The democrats have their liberals, Hilary and Obama.  They've lost everything the past few years, with the exception of recently gain control of Congress, and are very motivated to win the presidential election.  On the other hand, there is no real conservative candidate and no real charismatic personality that has motivated the base thus far.

    April 28, 2007 5:33 PM
  • Robert, all I can say is BRAVO!  I knew from your other blog that you were a Republican and it's one of the reasons (albeit a small one - the tech news really stands on it's own) that I've continued reading.  Many times I find it hard to hold my tounge at work (software development), because I know if I say what I want to say, I'll have twenty screaming liberals down my throat.  

    Keep the good stats coming!

    April 28, 2007 6:00 PM
  • Drew said:

    Great post. I've been reading for a while now, and it's great to know and hear that not everyone in the tech industry is far left.

    As Jason said, keep the stats coming!

    April 28, 2007 9:09 PM
  • John Obeto said:

    You forgot the activities of Meg Whittman at Ebay

    April 29, 2007 12:28 AM
  • Alan Dean said:

    It is also worth making the observation that many people in the tech industry are not american. Some are Brits, like myself, to whom american political labels are not appropriate as 'left-leaning' doesn't mean the same thing on this side of the pond :-)

    Being a devils advocate - one might argue that higher levels of education have a tendency to make a person more of a centrist than an extremist (of whichever persuasion). Accordingly, I can't help but wonder if centrist views simply look 'left-leaning' to american republicans from their vantage point off on the right.

    In the interests of disclosure, I tend to vote Conservative in the UK (though I'm not a member) but I have a nagging feeling that republicans would consider the right-wing of British politics to be even more left-wing than the american democrats.

    http://www.conservatives.com/

    For one thing, the conservatives are actively 'green' these days - advocating carbon reduction and so on.

    April 29, 2007 2:47 AM
  • Alan,

    Good to hear from you again, it's been a while!

    Good points. I used the term "left-leaning" because I wanted to make my point without ruffling too many feathers (politics is always a touchy subject out here). I know plenty of people in the industry were not born in America, nor were many of my readers. Again, I am an American, commenting on American companies and the American political system. I know that most of this post's conclusions aren't valid past our shores.

    Any while I would normally agree with you about the educational aspect, but a LOT of students here are being taught that there isn't really anything wrong with Marxism, Che Guevara was really a great man, and that Capitalism is the reason why America is the Great Satan. I linked to a documentary being released on the subject, which is just one of many examples of why I'm worried about the higher-education system in this country.

    Re: That website, I'm having a hard time finding a page on where they stand ideologically, because I wanted to see I stand on their spectrum. If you find a link with talking points, feel free to pass it along.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    -Robert

    April 29, 2007 3:20 AM
  • Alan Dean said:

    Yes, it has been awhile ... PDC '03 (in fact, I hope to get to the PDC again this year - it'll be good to catch up if I do).

    Whilst your terminology may not be valid past your shores, I think that often americans forget that the outcomes of their democratic process directly impacts on much of the world. The world watched british politics in the 19th century because then the British Empire 'set the weather' globally, since WW2 the world has watched american politics for the same reason.

    I find your observation about the Conservative website very funny (commentators here regularly attack them for a 'lack of policies'). The relevant ULs are:

    http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=policy.listing.page

    http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=manifesto.index.page

    Here, we have a different policy dymanic to the US. The critical document is the General Election Manifesto (as we are a parliamentary democracy, constitutionally differently to the US) which all political parties publish in the election campaign.

    The manifesto I link to above is thus out-of-date. The Conservative have significantly changed leader and changed tack since 2005, becoming far more centrist.

    In reference to your comments about the educational aspect, I would make the following observations (given without benefit of being able to see the video you refer to - I couldn't find the link):

    - Marxism was political theory. Saying this does not imply that it works in practice (clearly it has not, in numerous scenarios) but that does not mean that it is without merit as political theory.

    - Che Guevara was regarded as a great man by many people around the world. Teaching people that does not imply an endorsement of his thinking or actions.

    - Why should America not try to understand why parts of the global population regard it as The Great Satan. Again, this does not imply endorsement (any more than researching cancer endorses that terrible disease).

    Just as it is possible to misrepresent 'leftist' education, I am sure it possible to misrepresent 'rightist' education too. Do non-state educational institutions perpetuate social elitism and promote social division? In the interests of disclosure, I was privately educated and I don't believe the previous position - but you see where I am going... Does home-schooling in the US promote religious bigotry, for example?

    If people want to polarize the debate (as I was deliberately demonstrating above) that's pretty easy. It's hard to find the common ground.

    April 29, 2007 4:06 AM
  • Funny, I was a Republican when I was 25 too. Then I got married. Or something like that.

    Why donate now? Because candidates who hit mid-summer with money will get momentum. Momentum will get them votes in important states (let's be clear in Democratic party really only four states matter: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada). If you don't get past the first four states all is lost anyway. See Howard Dean for evidence of that last time.

    I sense the country is swinging hard to the left right now. Unless there's another terrorist action. None of the Republicans even know how to spell Bush anymore they are running away from him so fast and so hard.

    As for tech industry being left leaning. Well, that might be true for most of the workers but it's not true if you look at only the executives. Even at Microsoft most of the executives were pretty Republican. In fact at least one guy I met at Microsoft worked for George Bush in the press office.

    If you compare tech with other large industries like, say, trucking or auto workers or Boeing workers I think you'll find that the skew is actually a little more right-leaning than usual. Certainly you don't see the organized activity you see with unions elsewhere in the country.

    April 29, 2007 5:31 AM
  • X said:

    Flame you? You gave what seems to me adequately researched statistics and a lot of food for thought. If anything, you deserve kudos for bringing up a topic which I haven't seen on any other tech-blog yet.

    April 29, 2007 5:42 AM
  • dduane said:

    Robert, not a flame, but just a thought: the "wheat vs. chaff" analogy (from this writer's POV, anyway) doesn't need to imply the presence of anything amazing. The only significant difference between wheat and chaff is that one will nourish you and the other won't -- this being why you throw one of them out and don't waste your time grinding it up for your bread. And yes, there's a whole spectrum of implied quality inside "wheat", but none of it has to approach amazing to do the job.  Unfortunately.  ;)

    Best -- Diane

    April 29, 2007 8:30 AM
  • David said:

    This was interesting Robert - thanks.

    >It's just too bad that there isn't more diversity of political views in our tech workplaces.

    As a Brit in the US too (it's basically a conspiracy to get back the colony by using our accent to sound cleverer than we are until the moment is ripe) give me some slack, but isn't the level of donation a reflection on how well people think the various 'side' is doing at the moment? The latest numbers of the current administration don't look very good and this might be related in some way to the level of donations?

    April 29, 2007 9:32 AM
  • David, Interesting observation. I think the American population does make donations to the current administration. It's called taxes lol. I think maybe some of the usual republican suspects are waiting until a bit later in the game, so they don't appear to be unsupportive of the President while he's still in office. Sometimes I feel like the Democrats started this whole election cycle early so that they could marginalize the President.

    Thanks guys for all the great comments. Maybe it is possible to have a civil political discussion in this country after all :).

    April 29, 2007 4:11 PM
  • Adron said:

    The funny thing is, there are also a TON of Libertarians in technology too.  They are neither Republicans nor Democrats.  Libertarians can "accidentally" be pegged as either of the other parties but generally want left alone to work, play, and run the industry of technology.

    It was built that way, most don't see why it should change.  In the coming years one can gaurantee the industry will change when either part gets their grubs into it.  That's when most of the minds start leaving.

    But hey, just cuz it happened in almost every other industry politicians start nit picking doesn't mean it will happen to technology sectors right?  :)

    April 29, 2007 7:42 PM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    One thing I have noticed about the tech industry and politics is that in my experience people on different sides of an issue tend to be pretty even-keeled in their discussions.  I'm not exactly sure what political party you'd consider me since I tend to vote on issue-lines instead of party-lines, sometimes I vote Republican and sometimes Democrat, but I've gotten into some good discussions with techies that vote strictly by party and they've always been good, intelligent and respectful dialogues regardless of how differing the opinions were.

    On the other hand try to debate OS X vs. Vista or decided between two flavours of Linux and you better be wearing some flame-retardant knickers.

    A tip of the hat to Alan and his explanation of the "leftist" educational aspects.  The reference to Marxism reminded me of being a young boy and thinking I had discovered a great new way governments and people should interact and having a teacher inform me I had just "invented" Marxism and that before I rushed off to spread the good word that I might want to learn a little history.  It was a sobering moment when I learned that some really great ideas often turn into horrible things.  I'm pretty sure knowing about Marxism and knowing why so many thought it was a great idea didn't turn me into a Marxist :)

    Sadly too may people on the extreme sides want to polarize issues because it's easier to fit an over-simplified statement on a campaign banner than it is to admit there are just as many common areas as there are differing.

    I do agree that it's way too early to start campaigning.  I chuckled about your jibe to Hilary being elected just to run her campaign because that's exactly how I feel every time a first-term president gets a year away from re-election.  Regardless of party they all pretty much stop running the country and start making decisions based on what will best position them in the polls.

    April 30, 2007 12:53 AM
  • Aaron said:

    Wow, one of the best comment-based discussions i've read in a long time. Seems there can still be intelligent debate found on the net.

    April 30, 2007 8:45 AM
  • April 30, 2007 1:01 PM
  • TrackBack said:
    May 1, 2007 4:02 AM
  • Jim S said:

    Excellent job Robert - and here's one Republican in the tech industry who isn't ashamed to admit it. Keep up the great reporting.

    May 8, 2007 5:38 AM
  • May 14, 2007 12:14 AM
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    May 25, 2008 11:19 AM