Who Does Silicon Valley Support In The 2016 Presidential Race?

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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As technology permeates almost every aspect of modern life, Silicon Valley has become increasingly involved in the welfare of the country, and American politics.

But which candidate and what general line of thinking Silicon Valley supports is not completely clear. While the region has a certain degree of diversity, in general one would expect that there is an overarching political sentiment and leaning for the tech hub.

First, it is important to establish certain outliers in the area that are outspoken and potentially cloud the broader identity of the Silicon Valley.

PayPal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel is a self-avowed Libertarian, but chooses to support Republican nominee Donald Trump over Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. This is somewhat surprising, since Thiel financially and principally supported former Republican presidential candidate then-Rep. Ron Paul in 2012. After giving $2 million to a super PAC backing former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Thiel does not plan on donating to Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Thiel is one of the few in the tech world who has publicly supported Trump. While a portion of Silicon Valley has a libertarian streak, not many have voiced enthusiasm for Johnson.

Much of Silicon Valley tends to favor deregulation and increased levels of legal immigration — two ideals that are paramount to the Libertarian party platform — but tech leaders do not classify themselves as libertarian.

So what about the Republican party?

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at a breakfast hosted by the American business executive. The meeting reportedly included talks about how Cook could best finance campaigns for House Republicans like Ryan. As a company, Apple said it would not support Trump and the Republican Party’s bid for the White House, because the candidate has made controversial comments about women, minorities and immigrants.

According to The WSJ’s published figures, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul respectively collected more than eight times as much in donations from the tech industry through June than Trump. Even though he recently softened his anti-immigration rhetoric, Trump likely scared off many within Silicon Valley, considering a large portion of tech companies’ leadership are immigrants or children of immigrants.

Trump’s populist platform is far more appealing to the average American in the heartland, including blue-collar workers, than to coastal elites. And Trump doesn’t even seem to care about Silicon Valley’s lack of support, as a lot of his campaigning and stumping has been in working class cities.

An expert on Silicon Valley believes its choice is fairly obvious.

“It’s pretty clear, from FEC contribution filings and other reports, that Silicon Valley has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Democratic candidates,” Ryan Hagemann, technology and civil liberties policy analyst at the Niskanen Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “This past election cycle alone, over 80 percent of residents voted for either Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton in the primaries and 9 out of every 10 dollars contributed, whether to presidential or down ballot candidates, went into Democratic coffers.”

“The other, less libertarian side of the region’s politics favors many pro-government policies,” Hagemann explained. “They tend towards a belief in a civicratic ethos–that government can be a force for good.”

That is why Hagemann classifies the majority of Silicon Valley as its own category, which he refers to as “Tech-Democrat.”

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