Biases Against the San Francisco Bay Area & Silicon Valley

Numerous large verdicts against large technology companies have been awarded in venues with very small populations, and a number of those large verdicts were against companies based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Many of those verdicts were in the Eastern District of Texas, which we know from our experiences there is vastly different – culturally, socially, economically, etc. – than the cities and counties surrounding Silicon Valley.

For some people, their bias against the San Francisco Bay Area is rooted in the solidly liberal culture there. The Bay Area is the 12th largest metropolitan area in America and home to more than 4.5 million people. The former mayor of San Francisco, Art Agnos, called it “the center of progressive liberal ethos.” In a polarized country, with politicized of social media companies, including several based in the Bay Area, this region has become a target for conservatives.  Vice President, Kamala Harris, and the current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, both have their political base in the Bay Area, which makes San Francisco a national leader among liberals, and a target among conservatives.  

With the rise in controversy surrounding tech and social media companies, for everything from data privacy, to AI, to social media censorship, opinions about these companies are often the focus in national media outlets. In our recent articles on social media companies and censorship, we discuss public opinion about the positive and negative effects of social media in America. The bottom line is that polarization is playing out over social media to the detriment of the reputation and public opinion of social media companies.

We wanted our national survey to explore the reasons why people are biased against technology companies that are based in Silicon Valley.  We suspected that one source of bias against these tech companies may be the fact that many are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. With this in mind, our survey asked respondents how strongly they agree or disagree with the following statement, “I am suspicious of Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter because they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.” 

The chart below shows that approximately 29% agreed with that statement, either “strongly” (11%) or “somewhat” (18%).  The remaining 71% of participants disagreed with that statement, either “strongly” (41%) or “somewhat” (30%). 

"I am suspicious of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter because they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area."
Pie chart depicting percentage of people from the national sample that agree or disagree that, "I am suspicious of Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter because they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area."

We were curious to see if there were any regional or geographic differences in biases toward the San Francisco Bay Area.  We asked participants to characterize their neighborhood as “urban,” “suburban” or “rural,” and another where we coded their states into seven different regions in the U.S.  Both of these yielded statistically significant results.

The chart below shows that respondents in urban and suburban areas were less likely than respondents in rural areas to have suspicions about the companies because of their location in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

"I am suspicious of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter because they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area."

The next chart shows that participants from states in the Pacific, Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast  were less likely to agree to having suspicions against companies in the San Francisco Bay Area than those in the South, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest.  Those in the Southwest region were more likely to agree to being suspicious of those companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Texas, the state where many of the trials against technology companies are based, was included in the Southwest region. 

"I am suspicious of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter because they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area."

California-based attorneys representing Bay Area companies that are parties to cases in venues where significant biases against the Bay Area exist should be mindful of these biases when selecting juries.  If you’re interested in a more granular, zip-code specific, analysis specific to East Texas’s Marshall and Tyler Divisions, contact us.