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Does the IT Community Have Common Political Interests?

You might be surprised

Health care providers, educators, farmers... When you think about some professions, you can associate certain related political issues and special interests with those occupations.

Information technology? Most people probably couldn't think of a unifying political issue that would excite a block of impassioned IT voters. As one response to our survey said, "I don't feel the 'IT community' has many common interests." And even if the IT community did rally behind a given issue, another respondent said, "I do not believe IT is a large enough constituency for any party to seriously consider."

Still, our survey showed that most of you are concerned about one issue in particular—the economy. Among U.S. respondents, 52 percent rated the economy as the most important issue facing their country today, and counting worldwide responses, 54 percent cited the economy.

When asked which party best represents IT's interests, 43.7 percent of you said Republicans, 31 percent said Democrats, and 25 percent said "other." (Most of the answers in the "other" category were "neither" or "none.") In connection with the issue of the economy, what's interesting here are your reasons for your answer—regardless of which choice you made. Your answers overwhelmingly revolved around which party would improve the economy, and specifically business and thus employment.

One IT pro explained, "The economy needs to continue to improve for the IT community to prosper. In the 80s the Republicans worked very hard to get the economy growing and now the Republicans are trying again to re-stimulate the economy." On the other side of the political street, "I believe Democrats take care of the nation as a whole. They tend to provide more jobs in many sections of the business world. The Democrats provide the nation with a better economy and a stronger international presence." Some people do not think either party represents IT's interests but still identified the economy and employment as the main problem facing the country: "I don't feel either political party does a good job. In general, they are forcing most companies to outsource or move services abroad."

Your concern with the economy and jobs brought out strong opinions about outsourcing. (For details on responses about outsourcing, see Mike Otey and Lisa Péré, "IT Pro Outsourcing," page 49.) More than a third of you (35.9 percent) said that your company is currently outsourcing, and 25.6 percent of you are somewhat or very concerned about losing your job to outsourcing. Many of you explained your choice of political affiliation based on your party's perceived stance on outsourcing: A Democrat said, "Bush has done nothing to slow down the outsourcing of US IT jobs to foreign companies." A Republican said, "Look at Kerry—he talks a good talk, but Heinz outsources more jobs than many other companies."

Many of you expressed frustration with both parties on this issue: "Both parties flip flop on outsourcing. Republicans are too close to big business, and Democrats would have government run all IT functions." Another comment was, "I find that it is politically convenient for both parties to mention IT and buzzwords such as outsourcing, but nothing much is being done to develop IT or reward/encourage people to be in this field."

The importance of the economy, and particularly jobs and outsourcing, extends to the level of the future value of IT as a profession, and this theme affects your political choices. You're considering how technology careers are evolving and the implications of the changes. "With the advent of IT outsourcing, employers are treating IT personnel as blue-collar workers. The Democratic Party has always been more labor friendly." In a similar vein, another person said, "The IT community doesn't know its best interests. We are transitioning from 'professional' to skilled labor and need to adjust our perspective accordingly."

Your political concern about the economy and the specific areas of outsourcing plus the idea that the status of IT as a profession is in transition signals a major change in thinking about IT careers. Over the past 9 years, this magazine has performed quarterly reader surveys to find out what topics you'd like us to cover. Career has never been high on that list of topics. In this current survey, however, you identified career development as number three among the concerns that keep you awake at night, ranking behind only system security and system stability and reliability. This new focus on IT as a career indicates what might be the emergence of an issue that IT pros will rally around: the future of IT as a valued profession and career choice.

Your Country's Most Important Issues
Both U.S. and international IT pros rated the economy as the most important issue facing their country. In addition, you all identified the same top four concerns. However, some differences occurred in where these top issues appear on the list.

In second place among U.S. respondents was global terrorism. In contrast, the entire survey sample, which includes international IT pros, ranked global terrorism fourth, with 40.9 percent of respondents selecting this concern.

Looking at both international and U.S. responses, you'll see that 44.9 percent of respondents identified health care as their second most important issue. However, only 42.5 percent of U.S. IT pros chose health care, making health care third on the list of top concerns for the U.S.

Rounding out the top four issues is education. Here, 40.6 percent of U.S. IT pros and 44.9 percent of all survey respondents consider education the most important issue. So U.S. IT pros rank education fourth, whereas the entire sample ranks it third.

So, you identified the economy as the most important issue facing your country, whether you're in the U.S. or another part of the world. And the remaining top four issues are closely related to the economy. Global terrorism has already had a strong impact on the economy and the job market, and IT pros have felt that impact. Education is a factor that can determine career growth, as well as the direction of IT as a profession. And the economy obviously determines people's ability to pay for health care.

Party Affiliation
Since you share a concern about the economy and how it affects your career, what party affiliation do you choose as a way to address that concern and why?

In the U.S., 39 percent of you identify yourselves as Republican, 22.6 percent say you are Democrats, and 31 percent are Independents. A small percentage of you (5.3 percent) just don't care or are disparaging about politics and politicians. In this group, comments ranged from "I don't know," to "I don't care," to "neither party has a true grasp of the technology age," to "they are all corrupt."

Your reasons for identifying yourself with a particular party were intelligent and thought provoking, passionate, and sometimes downright cynical. For example, you said:

"The Republican Party seems to have more of a focus on national security and I have liked the actions that they have taken on security-related issues, which has also spilled over into computer security."

"We tend to be high wage earners and therefore pay higher income taxes. Republican policies usually favor members of high income brackets."

"The Republicans are giving away our freedoms. The Democrats threaten business, which has gone more and more offshore as a result. Neither party gets it."

"Democrats are forward looking. Conservatives look too much to the past. Technology is always looking forward."

"All politicians are bastards."

Does IT Have Issues?
Everybody worries about the economy. Just because IT pros rated it their number one issue in this survey, does that imply IT has a political "cause"? Maybe not, but your focus on outsourcing, the future of IT jobs, and career status indicates that your political decisions revolve around choosing the political party that will address these concerns. IT might not have a political agenda, but you do share a lot of the same worries. Following how these issues develop over the next year will be interesting. Fortunately, it's up to you to do something about the issues that affect your job and profession.

See associated figure — What Political Parties Are You Affiliated With?

See associated figure — How Do You Characterize Your Social Politics?

See associated figure — Which Political Party Best Represents the Interests of IT?

See associated figure — What Are the Most Important Issues Facing Your Country Today?

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