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Small-Business Owners Say Candidates Fail to Address Issues

Small-Business Owners Say Candidates Fail to Address Issues

by Frank Newport and Coleen McMurray
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 50% of small-business owners say election outcome is of major impact
  • Most owners paying close attention to election
  • Over two-thirds of owners say candidates not discussing their issues

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey finds that half of small-business owners say the outcome of the presidential election will have a major impact on their small business. At the same time, fewer than three in 10 (28%) say the presidential candidates are discussing the issues most important to them as small-business owners.

Small-Business Owners and the Presidential Election
Would you say that the outcome of this year's presidential election -- that is, who wins in November -- will have a major impact, a minor impact or not much impact at all on your small business?
Major impact 50
Minor impact 23
Not much impact at all 23
April 4-8, 2016
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index
Small-Business Owners and the Presidential Election
As far as you are concerned, are the presidential candidates discussing the issues most important to you as a small-business owner, or not?
Yes 28
No 69
April 4-8, 2016
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index

These results are based on interviews conducted April 4-8 as part of the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, with a special focus on the ways in which small-business owners view the presidential election, the candidates and the issues.

In addition to the 50% who say the election will have a major impact on their small business, another 23% say it will have a minor impact, leaving 23% who say it will have not much impact at all. The 28% who say that the candidates are discussing the issues most important to them as a small-business owner is much lower than the 58% of national adults in a Gallup Poll who were asked a similar question in mid-April about the issues most important to them.

Business owners are paying especially close attention to the election. A total of 87% of owners say they are following the election either "very closely" (56%) or "somewhat closely" (31%), higher than what Gallup typically finds among national adults.

In addition to the widely held belief that the candidates are not focusing enough on the issues important to them, small-business owners are also split on how well they comprehend the candidates' positions. Overall, 79% of small-business owners say they understand the candidates' positions on issues that would affect small businesses "extremely," "very" or "somewhat" well -- although only 47% put their level of understanding in the first two of these categories.

These findings suggest that small-business owners are keenly interested in the election, and a significant number believe that the election outcome will have a direct bearing on their business. However, the prevailing sentiment is that candidates are not adequately focused on the issues small-business owners think are most important.

The Most Important Campaign Issues for Small-Business Owners

Given the conviction of many small-business owners that the candidates are not talking about the issues that are most important to them, the question becomes one of ascertaining exactly what those specific issues are. To that end, the survey included an open-ended question asking owners to name the issues they would like candidates to focus on in the campaign. The results, displayed in the accompanying table, show that owners would most like the candidates to address how they would handle taxes that affect small businesses. Owners' next-most frequently mentioned issues are the economy, healthcare and jobs, followed by the impact of government regulations, and the desire for a general focus on small-business owners.

As a small-business owner, what is the most important issue that you would like the presidential candidates to focus on during this campaign?
Taxes 22
Economy 12
Healthcare 9
Jobs/employment 7
Small-business focus 7
Government regulations 7
National debt/spending 4
National security/terrorism 3
Immigration 3
Truth/honesty/good leadership 3
Government unity 3
Trade (import and export) 2
Financial stability/sustainability 2
Minimum wage 2
Welfare/socialism 1
Education 1
Other 5
None/nothing 1
Don't know/refused 6
April 4-8, 2016
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index

Owners were also asked in a separate sequence of questions to rate the importance of 15 specific issues to their small business when the new president -- whoever he or she should be -- takes office.

The percentage of those rating the issues as "extremely" or "very" important ranged from 83% for issues relating to the small-business implications of the tax code, tax regulations and tax rates, to 40% for the president's actions relating to environmental regulations and climate change.

Issues rated as extremely or very important by two-thirds or more of small-business owners, in addition to taxes, include economic policies relating to small businesses, healthcare, actions that would increase consumer confidence and terrorism/national security. In addition to climate change, other issues at the low end of the ranking included presidential actions relating to the Small Business Administration, the minimum wage and education.

Thinking ahead to when a new president takes office early next year, how important will each of the following be to your small business? Will __________ be extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not at all important?
Rank ordered by extremely important + very important
Extremely important% Very important% Somewhat important% Not very important% Not at all important%
Actions relating to changes in the tax code, tax regulations and tax rates for small businesses 34 49 14 2 1
Actions relating to economic policies that affect small-business owners 30 47 18 3 1
Actions relating to healthcare and the current healthcare law 33 40 17 6 3
Actions relating to the confidence consumers have in the economy 26 43 24 4 2
Actions relating to terrorism and national security 29 38 20 8 5
Actions relating to trade laws and regulations that could affect small businesses 22 42 22 10 3
Actions relating to job creation 22 41 22 9 6
Actions that could impact oil prices or energy costs 21 40 27 7 4
Actions relating to government regulations of banks 19 36 28 10 6
Actions relating to federal spending on infrastructure such as roads and bridges 18 36 29 11 6
Actions relating to immigration 20 33 22 14 10
Actions relating to education 16 35 29 13 7
Actions on increasing the minimum wage 20 30 23 15 11
Actions relating to the SBA or Small Business Administration 16 32 33 11 7
Actions relating to environmental regulations/climate change 15 25 30 17 12
April 4-8, 2016
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 600 U.S. small-business owners in all 50 states, conducted April 4-8, 2016. The margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For more information about Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, visit Follow us on Twitter @WellsFargoWorks. Learn more about how the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index works.

For more information, discover the Wells Fargo Works press release and infographic.

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