IT workers seem to like John McCain and Barack Obama equally in the U.S. presidential race, but more than a third of respondents in a recent survey preferred some other candidate.
Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents said they supported Obama, an Illinois Democratic senator, and another 29 percent supported McCain, an Arizona Republican senator, according to the survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and polling firm Rasmussen Reports. Only 13 percent said they supported Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat.
But the survey also found significant support for Mike Huckabee, a Republican and former governor of Arkansas, who garnered 11 percent of the respondents' votes, and Representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, who was supported by 9 percent of respondents. McCain became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party on March 4, after the survey was done in February and early March.
Using the survey results, CompTIA and Rasmussen Reports estimate there are 12 million people in the U.S. who identify themselves as IT workers. That's four times the number of IT workers classified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Rasmussen recently asked more than 54,000 U.S. workers about their occupations, and more than 8 percent identified themselves as IT workers, said Roger Cochetti, CompTIA's group director of U.S. public policy.
Based on the survey results, IT workers make up one of the largest occupations in the U.S. and one of the most politically active groups, Cochetti said. The survey, of 600 self-identified IT workers, found that 27 percent have used the Internet to contribute to a political campaign. By comparison, less than 0.3 percent of U.S. residents have contributed more than US$200 to a U.S. political campaign during the 2008 election cycle.
Political campaigns would be wise to pay attention to this huge bloc of IT workers, Cochetti added. "They put their money where their mouth is," he said. "Bottom line -- the IT worker voting bloc is here to say. Attention to that bloc won't just end with the closing of the '08 polls."
Beyond the support for McCain and Obama, IT workers tend to describe themselves as more conservative than the general U.S. population, but they feel less affiliation with one of the two major political parties, according to the survey. Thirty-nine percent of respondents called themselves conservative, 36 percent called themselves moderate and 24 percent called themselves liberal.
But 40 percent of respondents called themselves "other" when the main choices were Democrat or Republican. Thirty-five percent said they were Republican, and 26 percent said they were Democrats.
Strong support for candidates Huckabee and Paul seems to show a willingness to explore ideas out of the general mainstream, Cochetti said. "It reflects this highly independent nature of the IT workforce," he said.
Asked what was the most important issue facing the next president, 39 percent of IT workers identified the economy, 18 percent identified the war in Iraq, 15 percent identified immigration, and 14 percent said national security.
CompTIA plans more IT worker surveys this year, with questions drilling down into specific issues, Cochetti said. Politicians shouldn't ignore IT workers, but it may be hard to target the group because IT workers' opinions are "not homogeneous," he said.
Asked about the main factor that leads them to support a candidate, 27 percent of respondents said "specific issues." Another 25 percent said vision, and 16 percent said experience. Only 1 percent identified a candidate's interest in the IT sector.