National election polls today show the Presidential candidates neck-and-neck, but among small business owners Mitt Romney has a clear lead.
Just under half of small business owners surveyed by Yahoo! Small Business Advisor this month said that if they voted now, their choice for President would be Governor Romney. Only 35 percent said they would re-elect President Barack Obama. Among all small business voters surveyed, business issues, and especially healthcare reform, will be a priority at the polls.
Yahoo! and IpsosMediaCT conducted the third quarterly online election survey of 250 owners of businesses with up to 100 employees from June 20 – July 2. The national survey polled only full or partial owners who intend to vote in November, and sought input mostly from experienced business owners: more than 60 percent of respondents have been in business for more than five years, and 66 percent represented traditional service or local storefront businesses, as opposed to online operations.
Asked to reveal their political party affiliation, 38 percent of respondents said they are Republican, 30 percent Democrat, and 25 percent Independent. A handful of respondents affiliated with each party said they would cross party lines to vote, and 40 percent of Independents said they plan to vote for Romney. To be sure, Romney’s margin among small business owners is not airtight. Twelve percent said they remain undecided, and 16 percent said neither candidate is best for supporting small business issues.
Healthcare reform is a priority
Echoing the findings of the two previous Yahoo! Small Business quarterly elections-focused surveys, business owners said they plan to cast their votes based largely on their view of the candidates’ stances on various business policies. For 35 percent of them, business issues will take priority at the polls over those affecting family, lifestyle, war, or environment. Asked which candidate would be best for supporting small business issues, responses mirrored the survey’s election forecast: 47 percent said Romney’s positions are best for small business, 36 percent prefer Obama’s.
The most significant—and polarizing—small business issue? Healthcare reform. Regardless of which candidate they preferred, 75 percent of those surveyed said their candidate’s position on healthcare reform is significant or even the single most important issue among a checklist of small business-related policies influencing their vote. Ninety percent of Democrats and 93 percent of Republicans said healthcare reform is “at least a minor consideration” they’re weighing to judge the candidates’ suitability to support small business. Only 9 percent of respondents said the candidates’ positions on healthcare reform have no bearing on their opinion.
Survey respondents’ responses to the open-ended question, “What one issue affecting your business would you like to see policymakers address?” reveal their overwhelming focus on the subject of healthcare reform and lingering confusion about the bill’s impact. “Keep Obamacare,” wrote one business owner. “We must bring down the costs of staying well. The price of health care and insurance is dragging the middle class down!” But many more respondents shared opposing sentiments such as, “Stop punishing small businesses with ridiculous taxes like the latest healthcare bill,” and, “If the new health program goes through it may shut my company down. We are too small to be able to pay for full medical for our employees.”
Taxes, capital, and the economy
Other key business policies that small business owners say are significant or the most important issue they will consider in their choice for President are corporate tax rates (69 percent), policies affecting access to capital and loans (68 percent), and governmental regulation in their industry (68 percent). More than 40 percent of respondents, and more than half of Republican respondents, said Federal regulations have a bigger negative impact on their business than state, local, or industry regulations. A large majority of respondents indicated that, with regard to the economy, little has changed for them during the past year. As in Yahoo!’s previous surveys, more than one-third said the stalled economy is keeping them from investing in their business for growth. Overall, 68 percent of small business owners said the economy has adversely impacted their business. Forty-six percent have been unable to hire as many people as they needed or have had to lay off workers because business has been slow.
There’s still no consensus among small business owners, however, as to whether government is to blame for the state of the economy. Small business owners who identify themselves as Democrats are far more likely to blame “the actions of Wall Street leaders and big banks” for their economic woes—38 percent of Democrats take that view while only 10 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents agree.
But nearly half of Republicans and more than 40 percent of Independents agree that “the toxic atmosphere in Washington is the biggest obstacle to economic growth for the country and my business.” Many will voice their frustration by voting for change at the polls in November.