(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Bernie Sanders may be leading the Democratic field right now, but whoever wins the nomination will have a big task ahead: convincing the country’s 30 million small business owners that he or she can do a better job for them than the current president.
That challenge was made apparent with the release of new numbers this past week from CNBC and SurveyMonkey. In their quarterly Small Business Index, a survey of more than 2,000 small business owners that was taken in early February, almost two-thirds of those responding (64%) said they approve of the job the president’s doing, an approval rate that ranks the highest since the president took office.
The results of the poll shouldn’t be too surprising for anyone who runs a small business. Despite the president’s erratic behavior and tweeting – which is generally frowned upon – most of us have seen more demand, increased revenues, less regulation and lower taxes during his first term. Interest rates and inflation have held steady and overall confidence has remained high. A third of those responding said they expect to increase their headcount this year and 60% predict revenue growth in 2020.
You can debate the true impact of the president’s policies – like tax reform – or how much he should be credited for the country’s growing economy. But his pro-business sentiment has been well received by small business owners.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything is rosy. Small business owners participating in the CNBC/SurveyMonkey study admitted to significant challenges finding people to hire – challenges that have been exacerbated by the president’s immigration policies. Many who rely on overseas trade have also had difficulties navigating their way through increased tariffs brought on by the administration’s ongoing disputes with China and other partners.
But putting those issues aside the survey found a majority of business owners were feeling more positive about their companies and that fears of a recession have been somewhat tempered. Researchers also attribute the timing of the survey – which was conducted before news of the spreading of the coronavirus and just after his impeachment acquittal and State of the Union address – as factors behind his high approval ratings. “Small business owners surveyed tend to lean more right than center,” SurveyMonkey’s senior researcher, Laura Wronski, also noted.
So does this mean smooth sailing for the president during this year’s election season? Of course not. Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, the president’s policies (and behavior) are sure to be a challenge and many other factors including the potential economic impacts of the coronavirus, rising deficits, disappointing wage growth, immigration policies and an unpredictable stock market could all dampen the enthusiasm of his current small business supporters. Oh, and did I mention his behavior?
America’s 30 million small business owners will be a critical voting bloc for not only the president this coming November but for every member of Congress. Right now, the numbers are clear: it’s the president who’s favored by this group. But there’s still a long way to go.