Silicon Valley has long preferred to remain aloof from national politics, but the Trump era has altered that stance.
In recent months, tech luminaries have repeatedly clashed with the president, criticizing his executive order on Muslim immigration, his ban on transgender troops, his “many sides” equivocation on white supremacists and his Tuesday announcement that he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which lets young undocumented immigrants remain in the country.
A politically awakened Silicon Valley, buttressed by the tech industry’s growing economic power, could potentially alter politics long after President Trump has left the scene. But if the tech industry becomes a political force, what sort of policies will it push?
A new survey by political scientists at Stanford University suggests a mostly straightforward answer — with one glaring twist. The study is the first comprehensive look at the political attitudes of wealthy technologists, whose views have long been misunderstood to the point of caricature by many outside the industry. The findings of the study, which is currently under peer review, were presented last week to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.
The survey suggests a novel but paradoxical vision of the future of American politics: Technologists could help push lawmakers, especially Democrats, further to the left on many social and economic issues. But they may also undermine the influence of some of the Democrats’ most stalwart supporters, including labor unions. And they may strive to push Democrats away from regulation on business — including the growing calls for greater rules around the tech industry.
Over all, the study showed that tech entrepreneurs are very liberal — among some of the most left-leaning Democrats you can find. They are overwhelmingly in favor of economic policies that redistribute wealth, including higher taxes on rich people and lots of social services for the poor, including universal health care. Their outlook is cosmopolitan and globalist — they support free trade and more open immigration, and they score low on measures of “racial resentment.”
On most culture-war issues, they are unrepentantly liberal. They oppose restrictions on abortion, favor gay rights, support gun control and oppose the death penalty.
Now for the twist. The study found one area where tech entrepreneurs strongly deviate from Democratic orthodoxy and are closer to most Republicans: They are deeply suspicious of the government’s efforts to regulate business, especially when it comes to labor. They said that it was too difficult for companies to fire people, and that the government should make it easier to do so. They also hope to see the influence of both private and public-sector unions decline.
“You would think that people with enough money to influence the political system would obviously use that influence to increase social and economic inequality in ways that benefit them,” said David Broockman, an assistant professor of political economy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and a co-author of the study.
“What’s surprising to us,” he continued, “is that you could find this group that says, ‘Actually, our taxes should go up and more money should go to things like universal health care, or that we should do more to protect the environment’ — but at the same time believes that regulations and labor unions are a problem.”
Mr. Broockman conducted the study with Neil Malhotra, a political scientist at…