Tech entrepreneurs don’t fit the profile of libertarians or other traditional political categories, study finds

New research has found that technology entrepreneurs tend to have different political predispositions compared to other economic elites.

The study, published in the American Journal of Political Science, suggests that most technology entrepreneurs don’t fit the standard profile of libertarians or other mainstream political categories. Instead, they tend to support liberal social and redistributive policies while taking a more conservative approach to regulation and labor unions.

“Technology entrepreneurs are poised to wield immense political power: their companies are one of the biggest contributors to American economic growth; the biggest tech companies are larger than biggest banks and oil companies; they employ millions of workers; and Americans spend a third of their waking hours looking at their products,” explained study author David E. Broockman of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“For example, reflecting these changes, we see politicians — especially Democrats — are now raising huge sums in campaign contributions from the area around Silicon Valley.”

“Just like previous generations of economic elites, we would expect technology entrepreneurs to use this power to exert political influence, such as by pushing Democratic officeholders to adopt their preferred policies — yet we don’t understand what technology entrepreneurs actually want from government. We wanted to understand this, as well as to take a step back and think theoretically about what will drive economic elites’ political views,” Broockman told PsyPost.

“That is what led us to conduct our survey, which was the largest political survey of economic elites in any industry.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 158 computer science majors at a university, 150 biology majors, 603 U.S. technology entrepreneurs, 1,152 partisan donors, and 1,636 members of the American public. Compared to Democratic donors and millionaires in the mass public, technology entrepreneurs (as well as computer science majors) tended to be more liberal went it came to taxation and government spending but more conservative regarding government regulation.

In addition, like most Democrats, technology entrepreneurs scored low on measures of authoritarianism, high on cosmopolitanism, and low on racial resentment.

“There are two main takeaways, one more general and one specific to technology elites,” Broockman explained to PsyPost. “First, on a more general level, most research on economic elites has explained their behavior by examining their self-interest. Self-interest surely drives economic elites — but we argue that their underlying beliefs and values do as well.”

“In addition, we argue that these beliefs and values systematically vary across industries. As a result, economic elites from an industry can share distinctive preferences due in part to sharing distinctive predispositions. Consequently, how increases in economic elites’ influence affect inequality depends on which industry’s elites are gaining influence and which policy issues are at stake.”

“For example, we show that technology elites are very low in authoritarianism, an important predisposition which is about, among other things, toleration of those who deviate from the norm. We would expect those who tolerate deviation from the norm to be attracted to the technology industry — and we show they are — but we would also expect them to have a unique set of political views (e.g., liberal attitudes on social issues such as same-sex marriage), which we also show they do,” Broockman continued.

“Second, in terms of understanding the personal views of technology entrepreneurs, we show that they are very liberal on almost every issue. For example, they want their own taxes to be raised to pay for economic redistribution. However, they are very conservative on matters of government regulation — they are extremely skeptical of government action that makes it harder for entrepreneurs to do business.”

“We show that this skepticism is not specific to the tech industry — it shows up just as strongly when we ask them about florists. This suggests that as the tech industry gains influence within the Democratic party, it will push the party further to the right on some issues of regulation and related to unions, even as it supports the party’s traditional platform in most areas,” Broockman added.

The study provides new insights into the political predispositions of technology entrepreneurs. But the predispositions found in other industries is still relatively unknown.

“In our study we compare technology entrepreneurs to other wealthy individuals, but more work remains to be done to understand economic elites in other industries,” Broockman explained.

“More generally, we know remarkably little about what economic elites, political donors, and other groups of wealthy and powerful Americans think about politics. For example, in some of our other work, What Do Donors Want? Heterogeneity by Party and Policy Domain, we’ve shown there are also some surprising patterns in how the views of the donor class of each party diverge from the views of each party’s voter base.”

The study, “Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Evidence from Technology Entrepreneurs“, was authored by David Broockman, Greg F. Ferenstein, and Neil Malhotra