Survey: IT workers like McCain, Obama in U.S. presidential race

They also describe themselves as more conservative than the overall population

IT workers seem to like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) 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 support Obama, and another 29% are backing McCain, according to the survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and polling firm Rasmussen Reports. Only 13% said they support Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat.

The survey also found significant support for Mike Huckabee, a Republican and former governor of Arkansas, who garnered 11% of the respondents' votes; and Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, who was supported by 9% of respondents. McCain became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party on March 4, shortly after the survey was completed.

Based on the survey results, CompTIA and Rasmussen Reports estimate that 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% 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 occupation blocs 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% have used the Internet to contribute to a political campaign. In comparison, less than 0.3% of U.S. residents have contributed more than $200 to a U.S. political campaign during the 2008 election cycle.

Political campaigns would be wise to pay attention to this 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 stay. 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 either of the two major political parties, according to the survey. Thirty-nine percent of respondents called themselves conservative, 36% described themselves as moderate, and 24% identified themselves as liberal.

But 40% of respondents selected "other" when the main choices were Democrat or Republican. Thirty-five percent said they were Republican, and 26% said they were Democrats.

Strong support for Huckabee and Paul seems to indicate a willingness to explore ideas out of the political mainstream, Cochetti said. "It reflects this highly independent nature of the IT workforce," he added.

Asked what was the most important issue facing the next president, 39% of IT workers identified the economy, 18% cited the war in Iraq, 15% said immigration, and 14% cited 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 employees' opinions are "not homogeneous," he said.

Asked about the main factor that leads them to support a candidate, 27% of respondents said "specific issues." Another 25% said vision, and 16% named experience. Only 1% identified a candidate's interest in the IT sector as the reason for their support.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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