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I'm interested in a breakdown of the political preferences of software engineers in the United States.

I read a comment here:

The majority of developers are also overwhelmingly left leaning

The only readily available information I could find was from 2008, and only referenced "engineers" in general, showing them as conservative leaning:

enter image description here

I'd love to see something more up to date. I'd love to see something which addressed software engineers in finer granularity.

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    @gerrit There is some interesting stuff in the graph. Apparently Auto Dealer is the most conservative profession, and Travel Agent is the most unbiased. Maybe I should start going to my travel agent to get my news ;) – Jonathan Mee Feb 6 '17 at 14:57
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    @gerrit might be a US specific thing, there's a fairly good argument that the Democratic party is in the pocket of lawyers and frequently makes laws designed to enrich them. This isn't a partisan jab, the GOP has tons of industries it loves to pander to with crony capitalism as well. – lazarusL Feb 6 '17 at 15:04
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    @PoloHoleSet - 1950s called, they want their journalists who actually tried to report the news instead of influence them back. Hell, I heard journalists openly calling Trump "enemy" around inauguration. A vast majority of journalists in the west don't care about anything but furthering their political preferences, and aren't even all that coy about it anymore (it was the same in 18-19th century; but they were honest about their partisan leanings, and less overwhelmingly in the same corner than now) – user4012 Feb 6 '17 at 16:21
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    @user4012 - nonsense and propaganda. Which journalists, and in what context? Pundits, or actual journalists? "Enemy" in terms of journalists supposed to be reporting on facts, and the Trump faction waging war on objective fact, or they just don't like him. That's crap and nonsense. – PoloHoleSet Feb 6 '17 at 16:30
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    @blip - No, being not exposed to life under socialism tends to make people more liberal in their perspectives. Most immigrants from socialist countries are fare more exposed to more cultures and even ethnicities than most hardcore Western liberals (I lived on 3 continents and visited 4, you?), but reject liberalism for its endless fascination with murder cult of socialism. – user4012 Feb 6 '17 at 19:39
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Verdant Labs has data on the political leanings sorted by profession, based on campaign contributions.

For software engineers:

enter image description here

For other IT professions:

enter image description here

Others have similar data based on campaign contributions (eg Business Insider). I would prefer polls asking the actual political leanings based on professions, but I couldn't find any data on that.

  • Seems as reliable as anything we're going to get. Obviously we could just have this overwhelming majority of developers who simply do not contribute, but it seems reasonable that there would be approximately the same percentage of non-contributing engineers on each side of the aisle. – Jonathan Mee Feb 6 '17 at 17:19
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    +1 because it's the best attempt at a proxy so far. However, it's not a good measurement. Income will vary wildly between professions, making some people far more able (and likely) to donate to campaigns. Professions also are proxies for a lot of other socio-economic things, so there a lot of confounding factors. – indigochild Feb 6 '17 at 18:19
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    @indigochild I don't quite see how the income differential between professions would matter here. You might get a larger percentage of doctors contributing than fry cooks, but within each profession that would not matter. The biggest critique that I have is that in resent political cycles there have been concerted efforts to bring in small donors on the left while the right has relied mostly on the traditional big money contributions. That should be something we could model for and create a correction factor if it had a significant effect. – Ukko Feb 6 '17 at 19:48
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    A possible problem with this approach (not sure if this data compensates for that) is that political contributions might get very skewed by a few extra rich CEOs (and many software CEOs are liberal, so if that's the case they could easily dominate the data). Another problem is that many people are libertarian rather than liberal - they basically have nobody to contribute to, so they aren't counted here but they don't necessarily agree with liberals on some things. Totally agree that polls would be far better. – user4012 Feb 6 '17 at 19:59
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    @Ukko - the issue your comment raised may be worth factoring out into an independent question on Politics.SE. – user4012 Feb 6 '17 at 20:01
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This answer is not meant to be definitive proof that most software developers are left leaning, but I do want to show some high correlations between your average software developer and your typical American democrat.

First, the average software developer is a young person. In the 2016 Stack Overflow developer survey (which isn't perfect, but is again this answer isn't going for perfect) Over 50% of software developers are under 30 years old. A 2016 from the Harvard institute of Politics show that Clinton was polling at 61% of people under 30. The NYT exit polls also show that Clinton won people under 30 by around a 20 point lead.

Second, most software development centers are in big cities. Silicon valley, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Houston, etc. These are all large urban areas that reliably vote blue.

Finally, and this is entering into total personal speculation space, I think the paradigms of software engineering tend be similar to a liberal point of view. Specifically, developers like to centralize; why write the same code twice? Why have the same data in 2 places? etc. Conservatives tend to be more about personal freedom, states right, and reduction of a large centralized government. (Note: I'm not taking a stance on which one is right or wrong here, please don't get into a war in comments).

Remember though that all I've really shown here is high correlation, not causation. That being said, when you roll the dice I think this will show why your average software developer is likely to be a liberal.

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    I think you go real far off the rails relying on the age of the resumes on SO developers. – Andy Feb 7 '17 at 3:00
  • @Andy Its not the age on resumes, its the self-reported age from people who took the SO developer survey a year ago. And I totally agree, its not perfect, but its a good estimate. You'll find similar results if you look at demographic reports from big tech companies like Google and Apple: the average developer tends to be young, under 30. – David says Reinstate Monica Feb 7 '17 at 3:12
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    I contest that the survey is even a good estimate (self reporting is notoriously unreliable), and focusing on big tech companies is going to skew things too. And you have the same problem focusing on one or two big companies. There are over 600,000 software engineers in the US; MS employs ~120,000 people worldwide, and only 40% are software engineers. They employ 71K in the US, and assuming that 40% holds in the US (it may not), that means they employ 28K engineers, or less than 5% of the entire US software development workforce. – Andy Feb 7 '17 at 14:57
  • @Andy Like I mentioned in my answer multiple times... my stats are not perfect at all. That being said there are many sources out there that show most developers are relatively young. Even outside of big companies. Computer science as an industry only exploded relatively recently, which is why it gets this heavy skew towards young people. – David says Reinstate Monica Feb 7 '17 at 15:07

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