A surprising new survey has revealed that Apple employees are strongly in favor of CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to lobby President Donald Trump on behalf of the company, seemingly putting it at odds with its Silicon Valley brethren.
The survey, conducted for Fortune by anonymous workplace social network Blind, shows that 81.6 percent of the tech giant’s employees support Cook in his efforts to speak directly with Trump on issues that affect the company and help “shape policy in Apple’s favor.”
Separately, 8 out of 10 respondents said that it is “fair that some of Apple’s products have been exempted from U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made goods.” Cook has repeatedly lobbied the Trump administration to exempt Apple’s products, including the iPhone, Apple Watch and Macs, from tariffs.
File photo: President Donald Trump talks to Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook during the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board’s first meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Following his Nov. 20 tour of Apple’s manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas, which has been open since 2013, Trump said he was looking at exempting the company from tariffs that have have been placed on imports from China as part of the ongoing trade war between the two countries, according to Reuters. The president also asked Cook if the tech giant “could get … involved in building 5G in the U.S.”
Though there may be overwhelming praise for Cook in his efforts to persuade Trump, not everything he does has been viewed favorably. Only 30.9 percent of those responding to the Blind survey said they “strongly agreed” with their CEO participating in the Austin event, held during Trump’s impeachment hearings. Twenty-three and a half percent said they “agreed” with Cook being there, 10.3 percent “disagreed,” 17.7 percent “strongly disagreed” and 18 percent were indifferent.
Blind’s findings are from more than 100 Apple employees surveyed between Nov. 21 and No. 25, Fortune reported. The anonymous workplace social network confirmed respondents based on their Apple email addresses, noting that more than 50 percent of the company’s employees on the social network identify themselves as engineers.
The two men have had a relationship seemingly since the start of Trump’s presidency, one that has seemingly only grown over time.
In March, Trump said that Cook had “become a friend of mine” during a meeting for the president’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. Separately during that meeting, Trump mistakenly called Cook “Tim Apple” in a slip of the tongue. Cook later decided to have a bit of fun at the president’s expense, changing the name of his Twitter account to Tim Apple.
The 58-year-old Cook is one of the few CEOs in America with a direct line to Trump, according to an October report in The Wall Street Journal. “He’s [Cook] a great executive,” The Journal quoted Trump as saying, with the president adding “[o]thers go out and hire very expensive consultants. Tim Cook calls Donald Trump directly.”
Trump has also tweeted directly to Cook, including once in October when he asked the Alabama native to bring back the iPhone’s home button.
Silicon Valley, regarded as a hotbed for liberalism, has often been at odds with many of the Trump administration’s policies, including its stance on immigration, climate change and trade.
Fortune, citing political donations website OpenSecrets.org, notes that Apple’s own employees have donated more money to Trump’s 2020 Democratic rivals — including more than $88,000 to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I.-Vt. and more than $68,000 to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Ma. — than to Trump himself, at just $5,100.
Cook, on the other hand, has often spoken directly with Trump or one of his advisers, when issues such as climate change, trade policy or others affect the company.
During his January 2018 State of the Union address, Trump, who has repeatedly said “trade wars are good and easy to win,” specifically mentioned that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company would invest $350 billion in the U.S. and hire an additional 20,000 workers.
In April 2018, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, specifically mentioned that Cook loved the tax cuts the Trump administration enacted in 2017.
“He said it’s great for business,” Kudlow told CNBC at the time. “And Apple is going to be building plants, campuses, adding jobs, lots of business investment. That was the first point he made to President Trump.”