Edelman Trust Barometer: No home-state advantage for tech in California

New findings from the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer paint a complicated relationship between Silicon Valley (the region) and Silicon Valley (the tech sector).

SAN FRANCISCO: There is no home-state advantage for the technology sector in terms of trust, not even in its spiritual cradle of California.

While technology basks in a 75% rate of trust globally, Californians’ trust in tech dipped three points since last year to 63%, according to newly released findings from the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

"We wanted to start examining how people closest to [tech] feel about it," said Edelman San Francisco MD Ravi Moorthy. "Tech has long positioned itself as David to corporate America’s and the business world’s Goliath. We started to see that may not be the case with the local folks."

Sixty-eight percent of Bay Area residents said the tech sector is "part of corporate America," compared with 70% of Californians. Most respondents in the Bay Area (59%) and the state (56%) think the industry is under-regulated, and a majority (57%) of Bay Area residents said tech leaders "don’t speak for them," compared with 55% of Californians.

The Trust Barometer also found a populist streak in respondents about Silicon Valley.

Seventy-eight percent of Bay Area residents said they support raising taxes on tech companies that move manufacturing overseas, while eight in 10 (80%) Californians said the same. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents in the Bay Area said they want to "reduce the number of skilled workers brought in from other countries to work at American companies," compared with 72% of state residents.

"As you can see from protests and those standing up to President [Donald] Trump’s executive order on immigration, nobody will say they agree with what Trump says, but if you divorce Trump from policy issues, that’s when you see those numbers spike," said Moorthy. "It becomes more about the issue and less about the person. Comms pros [and tech leadership] have to keep in mind it’s easy to rally against Trump and lose sight of the underlying sentiment with those issues."

Edelman Intelligence conducted the survey of 1,614 California residents, including 495 in the Bar Area, from January 20-31. The results were weighted to be in line with the U.S. Census.

California dreaming
When Edelman rolled out the Trust Barometer’s general results in January, its findings showed populism increased across the U.S. and may have contributed to a stateside boost in trust in most institutions, despite a "crisis of trust" abroad.  

California was largely insulated from those sentiments. It overwhelmingly voted against Trump, despite the Bay Area having a significantly lower average rate of trust in institutions (37%) than the national average (52%).

The newly released results showed nearly two-thirds of California residents (65%) believe the state should "pursue its own ideals" regardless of the rest of the country, an idea most pronounced in the Bay Area (73%).

"California hasn’t felt the hard, tangible economic malaise that the middle of the country has," Moorthy added. "The question for next year is: is that buffer enough? How long will economic growth and prosperity shield the tech sector, or any other sector, from negative externalities?"

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