Small Business Speaks: Candidates & Concerns in the 2016 Presidential Election

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Small businesses play a big role in the U.S. economy - accounting for 54 percent of all U.S. sales and providing 55 percent of all jobs according to the Small Business Association.

When it comes to the 2016 Presidential election, their opinions (and influence) matter too and a variety of recent polls have been conducted to get a better sense of who this demographic plans to vote for and why.

For instance, Alignable, a social network for local merchants, found that small business owners (SBOs) are struggling to find a candidate to rally behind, with Donald Trump being both the most feared Republican candidate (38 percent) and the most loved (29 percent) while Hillary Clinton is the most feared Democrat by 29 percent of respondents and most loved by 19 percent. With similar results for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz in both categories as well, it makes sense that a full 81 percent of small business owners believe no candidate understands their needs.

Despite this, Manta (a small business directory) polled SBOs a number of times over the last several months and got an entirely different set of results.

Manta's results were more decisive with Trump's support among small business owners consistently growing throughout the primary campaign. In an Aug. 2015 Manta poll, 41 percent stated that Trump was the best Republican candidate for small business; in a January poll, Trump's support had grown to 62 percent. In Manta's newest poll (post-Super Tuesday), 69 percent of small business owners said Trump is the best Republican candidate for small business and found that respondents favor Trump overall as well, followed by those still "undecided" and then Clinton. On the Democratic side, 56 percent of small business owners think Clinton is the best candidate for small business, and 40 percent favor Bernie Sanders (January's results).

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While primaries will continue through June, small business owners are rightfully already concerned about issues impacting their bottom lines based on the outcome of the next several months. For instance, Alignable found that increased taxes are of the greatest concern for SBOs as well as immigration and rising healthcare costs. Manta posed a similar question to its group of SBOs and very close to 50 percent said the economy is the most important issue this election year. Following far behind, 18.6 percent cited taxes and 11.2 percent said health care is the most important issue to their small business. Of course when small businesses fear an economic shift, it impacts job creation, spending and other critical areas.

Even with the election year, however, Manta's newest Wellness Index indicated that only 12 percent of the survey's participants expect that the uncertain political landscape will taint their business outlook for this year. Twelve percent doesn't seem like much for an election that is playing out pretty aggressively online (specifically social media) and is expected to continue to do so. This is, however, good news for the economy (e.g., jobs, local spending, etc.) because 83 percent of small business owners are optimistic about business prospects in 2016 likely due to a strong ending last year. In fact, 69 percent of the SBOs surveyed by Manta indicated a successful second half in 2015.

While Web professionals will be impacted by this year's election in a variety of ways, small business confidence is likely the biggest area of concern. Of course, prior to November there will be more SBO polls, more sentiment analysis and more changes on the horizon too; it will definitely be interesting to watch (to say the least).

Those enterprises that focus on optimizing their businesses processes, regardless of who's residing in the White House, will be those best positioned for 'Net success in the next four years, and the many years to follow.