Election Day 2012 is just six months away, and small business owners across the country are divided as ever on how they will cast their vote in this all-important year.
A new survey from Manta, an online community for small businesses, found nearly half (48%) of small business owners believe the GOP is the political party most friendly to their needs. However, as of right now, 32% of respondents said they would vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, who received 24% of support. If the GOP candidate were Ron Paul, 5% would vote for him, and 24% said they would vote for the GOP candidate, regardless of who it is in this election cycle.
Those who do not plan to vote said their top reason was they don’t like any of the candidates, with 34% choosing this option. Twenty-four percent said it was because they never vote, and 16% said it was because they felt their vote “would not matter in this election.”
Mitch Marrow, owner of the SPOT Experience in New York City, said he is planning to vote for Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections. Marrow, who opened his dog sitting company in 2010, said he has not been happy with the current political status quo.
“I would hate to see us lose ground and slip back to where we were a year ago,” Marrow said. “We have to take the unnecessary hurdles away from people, like myself, who are willing to be entrepreneurial. Large corporations are not what will pull us out of this current state. It will be the growth of small businesses.”
Currently Marrow has 200 employees, and he said he plans to hire 100 more in the next year.
Larry Nannis, CPA and shareholder at Katz, Nannis + Solomon, P.C. in Needham, Mass., said he feels historically that the Democratic Party has been more supportive of the mom-and-pops than its Republican counterpart. Nannis, who is also the immediate past chair of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), said the Democrats “just get it.”
“They get it from the standpoint of understanding the small business attitude of ‘give us leverage and get out of the way so we can grow our small business,’” Nannis said. “I don’t think the Republicans understand that. My feeling is that Republicans think that small businesses are just businesses that are smaller than GE and that everything is the same but on a smaller scale.”
Like Marrow, Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek Business Services (NASDAQ:NEWT), said he plans to vote for Mitt Romney. Sloane is not only a small business owner, his company caters to small businesses as well, and he said Romney’s policies favor small business more so than Obama’s.
“He clearly favors reducing spending and the reallocation of the U.S.’s economic resources,” Sloane said. “He will tackle the entitlement programs and reform them, and I believe he will be able to perform these functions without significantly hurting retirees, or the beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid.”
Only 11% of Manta’s respondents said they were very dissatisfied with the field of 2012 presidential candidates, compared with 22% who were somewhat dissatisfied. Thirteen percent described themselves as dissatisfied, 24% said they were somewhat satisfied and 16% described themselves as satisfied. Fifteen percent of respondents said they were very satisfied with the candidate pool for the election.
Nannis said President Obama is his choice in the 2012 elections, especially because he has experienced Mitt Romney’s leadership firsthand as a resident of Massachusetts during the presidential candidate’s governorship, and as a result is not a fan.
“His attention span as governor was not very long,” Nannis said. “Mitt tends to be one who thinks the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and is certainly interested in providing wealth to his investors, and I wouldn’t speak badly of that. His view toward small businesses is just different and I think President Obama and the Democrats are interested in building up small business. I don’t get the feeling yet that is where Mitt is.”
The top three issues for small businesses going into the election season are health care (19%), tax policy (17%) and government regulation (14%). Other concerns were unemployment (13%), access to credit and the ability to get a loan (13%) and the budget deficit (9%). Three percent of respondents said they are also concerned with the payroll tax (3%).
Marrow’s biggest concern didn’t rank in the top three, but he said it is a major issue in the small business community—liquidity.
“We found a sector and a business that is taking off, and we are having great success with the opportunity to grow and hire from the hourly wage pool—the core group of people who are unemployed in this country,” he said. “But we are handcuffed in terms of how fast we can expand, because the process of dealing with banks is so lengthy and difficult.”
As a CPA, Nannis said he is concerned with tax reform and policy. He is also concerned with reducing the deficit.
“The deficit needs to be dealt with, with both spending reductions as well as revenue enhancements,” he said. “There is also gridlock in Washington—the Republicans and the Democrats, neither wants to do things that are good for the economy. They want to do things that will get them elected in November. Congress will be very busy [post-election season] and will be rushing to create legislation.”
Despite lingering uncertainty in the political arena, more than half of respondents (65%) said they feel optimistic about the economic outlook for their business after the 2012 election.
Sloane said he is optimistic about his business, which employs 310 workers across the country, as well as the economic recovery.
“The U.S. economy is, on a relative basis, the strongest economy in the world,” he said. “We are optimistic that Americans will wind up voting for the concept of reducing the size of government for debt reduction as a priority.”
Manta, an online community for small businesses, polled 1,576 small business owners for the survey, with 65% of voters being male and 35% female. The majority of respondents were between 48 and 66-years-old, with 59%, followed by those 33-to-47-years old with 24%. Seven percent of respondents were under 32-years-old and 10% were over 67-years-old.