Study Finds Small Business Owners Are Wary of Election Season

Last fall, online lending company OnDeck conducted a survey of more than 500 small business owners in America and found that 25 percent did not have confidence in “any of the current presidential candidates.” Now, OnDeck has released the results of a follow-up study conducted between February 29 and March 14, 2016 which found that 34 percent lack confidence in the current candidates. Assuming OnDeck’s survey methodology is reliable, these results suggest that America’s small business owners are rapidly losing faith in candidates on both sides of the aisle. With just 6 months left before the general election, the presidential hopefuls will have their work cut out for them if they want to distinguish themselves as small business-friendly candidates.

What do Small Business Owners Want From the Next President?

The survey found that, in general, small business owners are focused on three key issues: economic growth, tax policy and healthcare costs. 36 percent of the business owners surveyed reported that they’d like the Federal Government to cut taxes, while 13 percent said they’d like to see increased investment in infrastructure improvement. With regard to employment costs, 19 percent said that they want a candidate who would cut healthcare costs, and 13 percent said they wanted a candidate who would stop increasing the minimum wage.

“Small business owners are keenly interested in this year’s presidential election as they grapple with some big issues tied to economic growth and healthcare costs,” said James Hobson, chief operating officer at OnDeck in a press release. “Given their active participation in past presidential elections, candidates would be wise to engage this vast voting constituency of 28 million small business owners.”

According to OnDeck, 95 percent of small business owners surveyed are registered voters, and three in 10 made a donation to a Democrat or Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Small business owners represent a key voting demographic that transcends common barriers such as age and ethnicity. Likewise, it would behoove the candidates to take steps to directly address their concerns.

Which Candidate Appeals Most to Small Business Owners?

When asked who has the best interests of small business owners at heart, three candidates stood out from the shrinking crowd of presidential hopefuls. Donald Trump came in at number one with 37 percent of the responses, followed by Bernie Sanders with 28 percent and Hillary Clinton with 16 percent.  It’s interesting to note that these three candidates vary dramatically in their approach to the nation’s economic policy.

When asked which president has been the best friend to small business, responses were remarkably consistent.

42 percent of the participants in the survey said that Ronald Regan had done the most to benefit small business during his term in office. Bill Clinton came in second place with 17 percent, followed by Barack Obama with 14 percent. Nearly three decades after he left office, small business owners continue to reminisce about the economic prosperity that characterized the years of the Reagan administration.

In this election season, many issues pertinent to small business owners have been overshadowed by issues concerning foreign policy and social justice. That’s not to say that these issues aren’t important – just that small business owners might feel slighted by a relative lack of attention to their immediate concerns. With the end of primary season looming, it seems small business owners could be more likely to vote against candidates rather than for them.