A survey of small business owners by Sage, a business management software company, regarding the 2016 election, revealed that a significant disconnect exists between the priorities and policy initiatives that small businesses want the federal government to focus on and what they perceive government devotes its time and energy to instead.
Survey Of Small Business Owners
Sage polled nearly 400 of its small and medium-sized business customers from a range of business categories in January and found that 63 percent said they were “discouraged” and 61 percent were “disgusted” with what is happening in Washington, D.C.
“As a small and medium business champion, we wanted to take the pulse of U.S. small businesses — especially during this major election year — to better understand the issues they want to be addressed by Washington,” said Connie Certusi, executive vice president and managing director of Sage U.S., in a prepared statement. “Small businesses deserve a bigger voice, so Sage wants to make sure their opinions are heard. And this survey makes clear that small business owners, regardless of political affiliation, are dissatisfied with government leadership.”
The survey respondents political affiliations varied, with 36 percent identifying as Republicans, 14 percent as Democrats, 20 percent as Independents and 15 percent who did not identify with any party. No other affiliations (Tea Party, Socialist, Libertarian) registered more than six percent.
The survey focused on three areas: special interest groups, government priorities, and the administration’s policy initiatives.
Certusi, in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, said the disconnect was glaring, on all fronts.
“Main Street ranks small businesses, the military and the middle class as the most important special interest groups,” Certusi said. “Yet they believe that the federal government not only caters to the needs of big business and government employees, but it does so at the expense of small businesses and the middle class.”
When asked to set the government’s priorities, the survey found that small business owners had a pragmatic view.
“They want Washington to focus on the economy, energy and healthcare, in that order,” Certusi said. “However, when comparing those to what they believe our current government’s priorities actually are, they only see one area of agreement: healthcare. Main Street also accuses Washington of ignoring their top priority, the economy, and focusing instead on issues they feel are less urgent, such as the environment or labor.”
Lastly, regarding policy initiatives, Certusi said that small businesses felt the administration should concentrate on tax reform, the deficit and social security, but that it was focused on gun control, global warming and raising the minimum wage — issues that were at the bottom of the list for small business.
Feelings About Washington
When Sage ran the survey of small business owners and asked participants how they felt about Washington and the current administration, the terms used were not positive. Instead, they chose words like “discouraged,” “disgusted,” “mistrustful,” and “angry.”
The survey participants were asked to pick which presidential candidate they felt would best represent the interests of small business across the board. In spite of just 36 percent identifying themselves as Republican, Trump took first place by a large margin (48 percent), Cruz came in second, and Sanders and Clinton split third place.
Finally, when asked which former president they would choose to take the reins in 2016, if given the option, the majority (56 percent) said Ronald Reagan.
“What this survey told us was that small businesses are casting their vote against the current establishment and looking at outsiders,” Certusi said. “They are extremely discouraged with the way things are going in Washington today. That should serve as notice to both parties as this summer’s conventions and Election Day 2016 approach.”