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USA Today, Jon Swartz – Poll: Cautious optimism about tech in Trump Era

USA Today, Jon Swartz – Poll: Cautious optimism about tech in Trump Era

SAN FRANCISCO — President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to make America great again.

But if the sentiments of tech workers and the general public are any indication of what he’s about to face in the White House, he has a split country to stitch together.

Such is the onerous task he inherits, based on a new study measuring the viewpoints of 500 “Tech Elites,” defined as people who work or invest in the technology sector, and 1,000 members of the U.S. “General Population.”

For starters, 65% of tech elites believe innovation is going in the right direction, compared with just 46% in the general public (33% say they don’t know). What is more, 76% of elites say their industry’s best days are still to come, vs. 59% from the public.

Tech elites (80%) also are at odds with the general public (67%) when assessing the importance of their industry in the U.S. economy. Those in the public consider healthcare (75%) and energy (73%) more essential than tech.

The Age of Trump Technology Policy Study could foment a string surveys, studies and polls on the potentially fractious relationship between Trump and American tech companies. Following a photo-op meeting between about a dozen of tech’s biggest names and the incoming 45th president at Trump Tower in New York last month, the industry is bracing for a Cold War of sorts over immigration reform, offshore manufacturing, taxation and cybersecurity.

The results — taken from Dec. 6-13, when Trump held his tech summit — were released during the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest high-tech confab in the U.S., this week. The poll’s margin of error is 4.3% for the elites, 3% for the general population.

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“Any major and unexpected event like Trump’s election can create pause among consumers and impact the markets,” says Joe Hyland, chief marketing officer of webcasting start-up ON24, who did not participate in the survey. “I don’t think any turmoil, or growth for that matter, will be isolated to Silicon Valley. There may be growth or stagnation as a result of this election, but I don’t think Silicon Valley will be an exception to the larger economic currents, in one way or the other.”

Despite a highly contentious election and some trepidation, both groups share “broad optimism” about the current and future state of the country, says Burson-Marsteller CEO Don Baer, who commissioned Penn Schoen Berland, a market research and strategic consulting firm, to conduct the study.

Some 73% of tech elites believe the industry will contribute to jobs creation, compared with 63% for the general public.

That optimism is reflected in a strong desire by elites (72%) and general public (67%) for the high-tech to help in high-skilled job training as more drones, robots, driverless cars and artificial intelligence-powered devices are built, the survey said.

While a few of the positive results may be the residue of a honeymoon period before Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20, tech elites aren’t entirely Pollyanna.

Nearly three-fourths say if innovation does not occur in the U.S., it will overseas — most likely in China (57%) or Japan (46%).

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