Small Business Holds Its Nose to Vote

One state, two states, red states, blue states: When it comes to what small-business owners are looking for in a presidential candidate, party affiliation doesn’t seem to count for much.

According to a recent survey by Manta, an online community for small businesses, none of this year’s presidential candidates are anything to write home about. Fifty-four percent of respondents are dissatisfied with candidates of either/all parties—and nearly 1 in 5 said they are “very” dissatisfied.

Thirty-two percent surveyed said President Barack Obama is the biggest supporter of small businesses, followed by Ron Paul with 20 percent and Mitt Romney with 16 percent. (No word about whether Newt Gingrich's push to colonize the moon might spur new business growth.)

Surprisingly, no consensus exists on what is the biggest issue facing small businesses: Tax policy was named by 17 percent of respondents, followed by 16 percent who said access to credit; 15 percent said health care; and the same percent said unemployment.

The U.S. Small Business Administration credits small businesses with generating 65 percent of all net new jobs in the U.S. during the last 17 years. However, the government doesn’t seem to be paying them back in kind.

Nationally, small-business owners with fewer than 100 employees say their biggest obstacle to growth is the federal government, according to a December survey by Yahoo! Small Business and Ipsos MediaCT, part of a quarterly effort to measure concerns that will affect the 2012 election. Federal business regulations, from labor issues to tax reporting, were cited by 30 percent of respondents as the biggest negative factor, compared with state, local or other regulations.

The Ipsos respondents showed no clear edge for any party among small-business owners: Thirty percent described themselves as independents; another 30 percent were Democrats; 26 percent were Republicans; and 14 percent had some other affiliation.

Ipsos concluded that “politicians will have to reach beyond party lines to persuade this group of voters of their policy plans for economic growth.”

The size or industry of the small-business owners who responded to these surveys is unspecified, but I would be interested in hearing whether small-business owners who happen to be independent insurance agents feel the same way.

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