IT Governance

Trump vs. Clinton: Who has the tech chops? Trump Edition

Under the headline The return of the Luddite president, Politico warned that both candidates have “scant first-hand understanding of modern technology”.

But does Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump have what it takes to draw the votes of the technology industry?

He’s promised to Make America Great Again, including getting companies to build their computers in the US and stop companies hiring foreign workers. Though a prolific Tweeter, he’s admitted that he’s not all that tech savvy, and we’re still waiting on some locked-down technology policies.

Support

While only ever briefly a contender, the Republicans did have a bona fide tech alumnus – however unpopular with her employees – in former HP CEO Carly Fiorina. She fell quickly by the wayside, however, leaving a man who has had a somewhat fractious relationship with the tech industry.

Over 140 technology executives including Twitter founder Evan Williams, internet pioneer Vint Cerf, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak signed an open letter lambasting Trump and his policies:

We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.

While he was on the fence for a while, Mark Cuban has now come out in favour of Clinton and started taking pot-shots at Trump, at one point asking; “Is there any bigger jagoff in the world than Donald Trump?”

Michael Bloomberg – a man whom many people thought could run for the White House himself –  called Trump’s business record into question when speaking at the Democratic National Convention:

“Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders, and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's run his business. God help us.”

Trump responded by saying Bloomberg “never had the guts” to run himself and had likely made a deal with Clinton to get a position in the White house.

HPE CEO Meg Whitman – historically a staunch republican – recently denounced Trump and announced her support for Clinton. “Trump’s reckless and uninformed positions on critical issues – from immigration to our economy to foreign policy – have made it abundantly clear that he lacks both the policy depth and sound judgment required as President,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

“Donald Trump is unfit to be president,” said Whitman. She labelled him a “dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears” and would “take America on a dangerous journey”.

When IDG Connect’s Kathryn Cave asked around, both Emma Smith, CEO of Memberoo, and Ian Tomlinson, CEO and founder of Cybertill, warned that Trump’s American protectionism could harm businesses with workers and manufacturing in other countries.

In fact, PayPal co-founder and Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel has been one of the few industry figureheads to come out in favour of Trump. Open Trump supporters are apparently rare in the Valley, and those who do support the man face backlash. However there was that time billionaire investor Carl Icahn said that he would be willing to take up Trump’s offer of being Treasury Secretary in his administration.

Various internet conspiracies have accused Facebook and Google of manipulating search results and trending news posts to favour Clinton over Trump, but let’s just leave those for the more paranoid corners of the internet where everyone is secretly a lizard.

Verbatim

Trump hasn’t been shy in giving opinions on the technology industry when asked.

As part of his Make America Great Again promise, Trump has said Apple should “build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries”. Aside from the fact Apple does have some manufacturing still in the US, most experts believe the cost and logistics would be almost untenable.

Trump isn’t afraid to pick fights, at one point accusing Amazon of “getting away with murder tax-wise,” partly through CEO Jeff Bezos’ use of the Washington Post to influence politicians. It’s not the first time Trump has taken pot shots at Bezos, Amazon, and the WaPo, and this particular broadside prompted the Amazon CEO to say Trump’s actions were “not an appropriate way for a presidential candidate to behave”.

Trump has previously said in debates he would want to see Bill Gates and other people in the industry to close up parts of the internet and prevent ISIS recruiting. This quickly drew comparisons with other internet blackspots such as North Korea and China.

In July Trump was seen to assume that Russia or some other state had hacked Clinton’s email server and should share those emails back with the US – leading to claims he was inviting nations to hack the government. On a similar subject, he has also claimed Ed Snowden is horrible and caused the US “tremendous problems”.

Trump also warned that Silicon Valley might be in the midst of a tech bubble akin to the 2000 crash. “I'm talking about companies that have never made any money, that have a bad concept and that are valued at billions of dollars, so here we go again,” he said.

Policy

Currently Trump’s policies on technology are something of a mystery. On this “positions” page, he has called for trade reforms between the US and China. While the prospect of a more even footing with local companies in the Middle Kingdom might sound appealing, the idea of having to bring the majority of manufacturing back to the US seems both extreme, costly, and a logistical nightmare. Other than that, he hasn’t really outlined many stances on the issues that matter to the tech industry.

Political strategy firm Tusk Ventures and tech policy group Engine have drawn up some helpful scorecards to rate the candidates on their tech chops. The candidates were rated on their support, understanding, and familiarity with a number of tech issues including security, IP, education and infrastructure. Trump earned an F due to the fact he “has yet to announce clear policy agendas or offer public comments on a number of issues examined, including patent reform and access to broadband”.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has called for the Trump-Pence ticket to outline its tech agenda, with the trade group's president and CEO Gary Shapiro warning that the US tech industry is “too critical to our country’s future to be a policy afterthought”. The group has in the past criticised Obama for his “anti-business” stance.

Trump has, however, said that the US is “obsolete” in the realm of cyberwarfare and it’s something should feature “very strongly in our thought process”. He has advocated developing and using cyber-weapons.

Immigration

We’ve all read about the wall Trump wants to build and how he’d prevent Muslims from entering the US, but his pro-America stance also extends to high-skilled workers. He has called for a pause in new green cards and a re-write of the coveted H-1b system to favour local workers.

While not naming Trump outright, Mark Zuckerberg did express concern at “fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others”. His FWD.us immigration reform group has also hit out at some of Trump’s statements and promised policies.

Cyber-security

In October of last year, PKWare and Wakefield Research asked 1,000 US voters how they feel about the issues of cyber security and the presidential race. While it was conducted before Clinton and Trump were confirmed as their parties’ nominees, there was a stark difference in levels of trust. While the parties were even in perception of general cyber policies, over 42% said they felt Clinton was the candidate best suited to handle issues of cyber-security, compared to just 24% for Trump.

Funding

Where the technology industry has in recent elections been contributing increasingly large amounts to candidate campaigns, there’s been relatively little action this time round. Obama had plenty of support from the technology industry, and even Romney could count the likes of Marc Andreessen as his backers.

No matter how you slice the data, Clinton is ruling the fundraising. She has raised over $330 million to Trump’s $41 million. According to CrowdPac’s data, around 10% of Clinton’s funding has come from the technology industry. For Trump, a mere $117,00 has come from tech, equating to around 0.29% of his total donations. Interestingly, before he dropped out, Bernie Sanders had actually raised more from the tech scene than Clinton and Trump put together. It is also interesting to note that the majority of donations to Trump are smaller individual donations, highlighting that while one candidate has big business and the rich on their side, the other is a draw for the less able to give.

Social

2008 was widely regarded at the first social media election. Today it’s hard to imagine running a political campaign without an online presence. Kissing babies has been replaced by taking selfies as the de facto “mingling with the common people” schtick. Online AMAs are more common, national conventions are live streamed on various mediums. Many are even calling this the first “Snapchat election”.

Trump is a keen Twitter user, at one-point acknowledging his social media presence gets more attention than any press release he sends out. According to Mediaquant, Trump has had the equivalent of almost $2 billion of free media attention across the campaign, more than double Clinton’s. He does, however, have a habit of retweeting extremists and his trolls, and is often unrepentant about it afterwards. Despite this, the sentiment of mentions is largely positive.

Trump has 10.1 million followers on FB, and 10.6 million on Twitter. Clinton has eight million on Twitter and just five million on FB. Trump’s often polarising comments, his celebrity status, plus the fact he joined back in 2009 give him the edge when it comes to online presence. Both, however, pale in comparison to the incumbent. Barack Obama’s accounts (his personal, not US President, pages) boast 49.5 million on FB and 76.5 million on Twitter.

You can get real-time updates on the growth of each candidates’ pages over at Quintly. According to their data, both are growing at similar rates (with Clinton slightly ahead), but Trump gets more in the way of interactions with his posts on both Twitter and Facebook. Given her larger war chest, it’s also not surprising Clinton is using more sponsored content to reach people on social media.

 

So who’s your pick? Is Trump the man to lead the US tech industry into its next golden age?

 

Also read:

Watson2016: Could an AI run for President?

More US 2016 tech lunacy: John McAfee for president?

What would Donald Trump as US president mean for tech?

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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