Small business owners, an increasingly disgruntled sector of the electorate, will be casting their votes with pocketbook issues at top of mind in this fall's presidential election. They believe the economy is the No. 1 issue facing the nation today and that the Republican Party has the edge at positioning itself as the party most supportive of small business interests, a national survey shows. But a sizeable number of small business votes are still up for grabs, promising to turn voting day into an economic slugfest between the GOP and Democratic Party candidates.
The economy and jobs are major pain points for small business owners today, with 60 percent of them citing the economy is one of the top issues facing the country today; 41 percent say that jobs are the paramount concern, according to a survey of more than 6,000 small business owners commissioned by MerchantCircle.com, an online merchant network.
This represents a significant decrease in optimism in the economic turnaround over the past year, with 61 percent saying that they do not believe the worst effects of the recession are behind us — a stark increase from January 2011, when just 41 percent said they believed the worst effects were not behind us.
While all the major political parties have had success over the past two years aligning themselves with the interests of small businesses, Republicans have been most effective in these efforts, the survey found. Nearly 40 percent of respondents now say that Republicans are most supportive of small business interests, up from just 23 percent in October 2010. Just 25 percent of respondents said Democrats are most supportive (up slightly from 23 percent in October 2010), and 16 percent say that the Tea Party is most supportive (flat from October 2010).
In general, all three parties have been effective at courting this audience: the number of small businesses who say they're unsure of which party is most supportive of their interests has dropped to just 16 percent (down from 37 percent in October 2010).
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, 15 percent of small business owners are still in play, uncertain as to how they'll cast their votes, the survey found. Nearly half (46 percent) of these undecided voters are also less certain about which political party is the most supportive of small business interests.
Social media may be a better bet than traditional methods such as TV commercials for candidates who want to reach this audience, the survey found. Only 7 percent of small business owners find these traditional marketing methods to be informative, while 60 percent find them annoying and 40 percent say they tune them out.
On the other hand, half of small business owners of small business owners follow political candidates on Facebook and 14 percent follow these groups on Twitter.