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Clinton vs. Trump: Comparing the Candidates’ Positions on Technology and Innovation

September 6, 2016

From R&D and advanced manufacturing to the Internet and digital economy, Trump focuses more on reducing government barriers while Clinton focuses more on engaging government as an active partner alongside industry.

Technological innovation has long been and will continue to be critically important to both income growth and national competitiveness. So it is important that we examine the 2016 presidential candidates’ policy agendas through that lens.

In each of the last two presidential elections, ITIF has released a report examining the two major candidates’ positions on a host of technology and innovation policy issues. While the 2016 election has proven to be unusual in many ways, one manifestation is that third-party candidates appear to have more support than normal, particularly the Libertarian Party nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. As of this writing, however, both Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are polling well below the minimum threshold required to participate in the official presidential debates, so ITIF is focusing its analysis on the two major-party candidates, Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican businessman Donald Trump.

In past elections, both parties’ nominees generally articulated positions on nearly all of the policy areas ITIF identified as key priorities for promoting innovation. This is generally not the case in 2016. While Clinton has stated her positions on most, if not all, of the issues areas tracked by ITIF, Trump has been much vaguer, offering few detailed positions—and, in many cases, none at all. Nevertheless, we believe it is important to clearly document what the two candidates have said (or not said) about these critical innovation issues, as their positions serve as the best-available guide to the next administration’s policy priorities—and the lack of a stated position may indicate which issues would be low priorities.

This report is based on information gathered directly from the campaigns’ websites and policy documents, and from media accounts of statements the candidates have made. The report begins with an overview of each candidate’s general philosophy on technology, innovation, and trade policy, and then compares the candidates’ policy positions across nine specific issue areas:

  • Innovation and R&D
  • Broadband and Telecommunications
  • Education and Skills
  • Internet and Digital Economy
  • Taxes and Budget
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Trade
  • Life Sciences and Biotechnology
  • Regulation

ITIF is a nonpartisan research and educational institution that focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. It does not endorse any candidates for office. Rather, our goal in providing a factual, impartial comparison of the candidates’ technology and innovation policies is to amplify the national dialogue around the need to bolster innovation-based economic growth.

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