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Silicon Valley Shuns Donald Trump, Opens Its Wallet For Bernie Sanders09:21

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Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a panel with Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders at Cubberley Community Center on June 1, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. With less than a week to go before the California presidential primary, Sanders is campaigning in northern California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)closemore
Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a panel with Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders at Cubberley Community Center on June 1, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. With less than a week to go before the California presidential primary, Sanders is campaigning in northern California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tech workers who are concerned about free trade with China, immigration and education, are keeping a close eye on the 2016 election.

And as Californians vote in the state’s primary today, it appears that Bernie Sanders is the Silicon Valley favorite.

“By quite a long way,” said Steve Hilton, the CEO of Bay Area startup Crowdpac. The company helps individuals make small campaign donations and compiles data on political giving.

The tech sector, which typically leans heavily to the left, has donated more than $6 million to Sanders since his campaign began. That more than doubles Hillary Clinton’s haul, according to Crowdpac’s data.

Hilton said Sanders appeals to tech workers who “think in very anti-establishment ways within their own professional lives. That is very much the culture of Silicon Valley.”

The tech sector, which typically leans heavily to the left, has donated more than $6 million to Sanders since his campaign began.

That same culture is very much anti-Donald Trump.

The presumptive Republican nominee has “pretty close to zero” support in Silicon Valley, Hilton said. Crowdpac data show the sector has given him just $21,815.

There are some reasons for this aversion to Trump. He called for a boycott of Apple and dressed down CEO Tim Cook for the company’s refusal to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino terror suspect.

“Tim Cook is trying to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is,” Trump said.

The candidate’s restrictive stance on immigration is alienating to an industry that relies on workers from other countries. And his plan to combat the Islamic State by controlling the use of the Internet stunned some workers in Silicon Valley.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, who was the 2010 Republican candidate for governor in California, has said Trump’s policies on trade with China will harm American businesses. She’s vowed not to support him in November.

Pay Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, an outspoken billionaire who has given generously to Republican candidates, will be a Trump delegate at the GOP convention.

He told Bloomberg that the Trump-Sanders phenomenon suggests just how angry voters have become.

“Maybe they have some good things to be angry about," Thiel said. "We have trade policies, immigration policies, corrupt government that doesn't do what it's supposed to.”

And tech workers haven’t yet warmed to Clinton. She’s raised $2.7 million from the industry, according to Crowdpac.

In some ways the presumptive Democratic nominee has her own issues with tech workers, said Greg Ferenstein, who wrote a book about politics in Silicon Valley called "The Age of Optimists." For one, Clinton is not a fan of charter schools, he said. Silicon Valley is.

Both she and Bernie Sanders are out of line with many tech companies’ positions on free-trade. But at the end of the day, Silicon Valley will likely forget about that, Ferenstein said.

“I suspect they will come out in droves,” he said. “Not so much because they like Clinton, but because Trump is everything they hate.”

Note: Also in this segment, co-host Jeremy Hobson speaks with Recode's Dawn Chmielewski about Silicon Valley leaders' roles as political power brokers.

Reporter

This story aired on June 7, 2016.

Peter O’Dowd Assistant Managing Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of NPR and WBUR's Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.

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