Apple Employees Strongly Support Tim Cook’s Relationship With Donald Trump, Survey Shows
It’s unclear if President Donald Trump and Tim Cook are allies. While Cook serves as an advisor on the president’s A.I. advisory board, he has also spoken out against some of the Trump administration’s policies, like DACA. But in a survey taken last week after Trump toured Apple’s Austin, Texas facility with the Apple CEO, the company’s employees signaled that they resoundingly stand by their leader—Cook.
The survey, conducted on Fortune‘s behalf on the anonymous workplace social network Blind, 81.6% of Apple employees said they support Cook’s efforts to engage the president on matters that “shape policy in Apple’s favor.” Meanwhile, eight in ten respondents said they believe it’s “fair that some of Apple’s products have been exempted from U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made goods.”
The findings, which were collected from more than 100 Apple employees between Thursday, Nov. 21 and Monday, Nov. 25 suggest Cook has strong support among his employees in working with Trump to get favorable results for his company.
Indeed, the stakes are high.
With the Trump administration in a trade war with China, Apple could get hit hard. On September 1, the U.S. enacted a 15% tariff on $112 billion in China-made goods, including Macs and Apple Watches. On December 15, the Trump administration plans to enact even stiffer tariffs, to the tune of 25%, on many more goods, including the iPhone.
Cook has strongly lobbied the president on China-related matters for the past year, with the apparent goal of getting Apple’s products exempted from tariffs. His efforts appear to be working.
In March, when the president called Cook “Tim Apple,” he also said that Apple’s chief executive had “become a friend of mine.” In August, Cook had a private dinner with Trump to discuss the U.S.-China trade war. Trump left the meeting saying that Cook made a “good case” for why Apple shouldn’t be subject to tariffs on China-made goods.
“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company that’s not,” said Trump. He was referring to Samsung, which Apple competes with on several fronts. Samsung is exempt from the tariffs because it products most of its products in Korea, Vietnam, and other countries outside of China.
Last week, the relationship between Trump and Cook was on display again, when the president visited a Mac Pro manufacturing facility in Austin. Flanked by the Apple chief executive, Trump toured the facility and saw how the Mac Pro is made, while the two men shared small talk. But the visit wasn’t without controversy—Trump said that he “opened” the Mac Pro facility. It actually opened in 2013.
According to the Blind survey, Apple employees are less convinced that the Austin photo opportunity, which took place while impeachment hearings against the president’s conduct were being conducted, was a good look for Cook.
In the Fortune-Blind survey, 30.9% of employees said that they “strongly agreed” with Cook participating in the event and 23.5% said that they “agreed” with his participation. However, 17.7% said that they “strongly disagreed” and another 10.3% said that they “disagreed” with Cook’s move. Nearly 18% of employees said that they were indifferent to the event.
Blind confirms the respondents are Apple employees based on their corporate Apple email addresses. Employees are intentionally anonymous on the service, but Blind says that more than 50% of Apple employees on the social network self-identify as engineers.
The support for Cook embracing the president is surprising, considering that Apple employees are decidedly anti-Trump. According to OpenSecrets, a site that monitors political donations, Trump has received just $5,100 in donations from Apple employees this year, far less than every Democratic presidential candidate. Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, has received more than $88,000 from Apple employees. Senator Elizabeth Warren has collected nearly $68,500.
A public forum on Blind, an anonymous Apple employee said they believe Cook “definitely hates Trump.” The person said that Cook’s efforts are little more than an attempt to get Trump on Apple’s side by playing to the President’s perceived weakness.
“POTUS is so transparently self centered that any company that placates him publicly is treated favorably,” the Apple employee said. “He’s being played like a fiddle, daily.”
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives says that Cook’s strong relationship with Trump has helped Apple sidestep tariffs. “His tight relationship with Trump was an asset,” he says.
Since the beginning of the Trump administration, Cook has said that Apple focuses on policies rather than supporting political parties or candidates. For Ives, Cook’s “balancing act” of keeping Trump both close and at a distance has worked.
“Thus far,” he says, “he has been a master tactician.”
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