Small businesses rate economy, ethics in government as most important election issues

Today the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and Thumbtack.com have released new data showing that small businesses overwhelmingly rank the economy and jobs as the most important factor in choosing a president. Surprisingly, however, ethics, honesty and corruption in government rated as the second-most important issue for small businesses.

And although President Obama has come under fire for his “you didn’t build that” comment, more entrepreneurs say that President Obama is more supportive of small business than say the same about Governor Romney. Nevertheless, more than a quarter of small businesses say they are unsure who is more supportive of small business. Furthermore, only one in five small businesses believe that President Obama’s health care policy helps their business.

Both presidential campaigns claim to promote policies that benefit small businesses, but nobody has asked entrepreneurs themselves which policies are most important to their businesses. The George Washington-Thumbtack.com Small Business Politics Survey is the only survey investigating the political issues that matter most to small businesses themselves, drawing data from an extensive, nationwide universe of job creators and entrepreneurs.

“Small businesses are deeply attuned to the effect of politics on job creation and the economy,” said Dr. David Rehr, a lead researcher on the study with the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. “Entrepreneurs are feeling squeezed by the tight lending environment and want their political leaders to curb the influence of money in politics.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • 40% of all small business owners nationwide rate the economy and jobs as the most important factor in choosing a president. Ethics, honesty, and corruption in government is the second-most important factor for small businesses.
  • Taxes are not a decisive factor for small businesses in this election, with only 3% of small businesses rating it as the most important issue in their choice for president – outranking only foreign policy and national security issues. Even among economic issues, tax policy was the top concern for less than 6% of small businesses.
  • The federal budget deficit looms large in the mind of small businesses, ranking behind only unemployment and the job market in the most important economic issues that small businesses are considering in their choice for president.
  • Small businesses rate gas and fuel costs as the single most burdensome cost to their businesses. And self-employment taxes were rated as more burdensome than even personal income taxes or health care costs.
  • The policy most commonly mentioned by small businesses that would help their business is improved access to loans.
  • 39% of small businesses say that President Obama is the most supportive candidate of small business, whereas only 31% say the same of Governor Romney. And 28% are still not sure which presidential candidate is more supportive of small business.
  • Only one in five small businesses believe that President Obama’s health care policy helps their business, and two in five small businesses say the opposite.
  • Among swing states, New Hampshire voters were the most concerned about the economy and jobs, Wisconsin voters were disproportionately concerned about ethics in government, and Iowans and Nevadans rated health care policy as their top economic concern more frequently than did small businesses in any other swing state.
  • Florida and Michigan small business owners were more concerned about the economy and jobs than those in any other large states.

“Six thousand small business owners have told an unusually nuanced story about the factors that drive their political decisions,” said Sander Daniels, co-founder of Thumbtack.com. “When job creators speak, we need to listen.”

The full results can be seen here and include interactive data visualizations, dozens of quotes from small business owners nationwide, and demographic-by-demographic comparisons.

Survey methodology

Thumbtack.com surveyed 6,174 small businesses across the United States. The survey asked questions about political issues and business costs, such as:

  • “What is the single most important issue in your choice for president?”
  • “Thinking specifically about the economy, what is the most important economic issue in your choice for president?” and
  • “How important are the following issues to the success of your business?”

The full methodology and analysis paper can be found here.

About GSPM and Thumbtack.com

GW’s Graduate School of Political Management, the pioneer school in the nonpartisan study of political management and applied politics, offers graduate programs in political management, legislative affairs, public relations and PAC management, as well as international programs in Latin America and Europe. The school educates students and professionals in the tools, principles and values of participatory democracy; preparing them for careers as ethical and effective advocates and leaders at the international, national and local levels.

Thumbtack.com is a place where you can hire help locally. Need a DJ, carpenter, personal trainer, or wedding photographer?Tell us what you need, and we’ll bring you 3-5 bids on that job to your email inbox within 24 hours. More than 275,000 small businesses and freelancers have listed their services on Thumbtack nationwide.