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Entrepreneurs for Hillary in 2016? Really?

In a poll of fast-growth CEOs, the former Secretary of State gets a surprising level of support for a Presidential bid.

Republicans are supposed to be the party of business. So why, in an exclusive survey of fast-growth CEOs, do 36 percent of these entrepreneurs say they’d support Hillary Clinton for President? That's more than any other potential Presidential candidate except for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom 47 percent of survey respondents said they would support.

The findings are based on a survey of the Inc. 5000, our annual ranking of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies.

Some of the other contenders were Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, with 34 percent; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with 31 percent; and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, with 21 percent. After Clinton, the best-scoring Democrat was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Nine percent of fast-growth entrepreneurs said they’d support him. 

Strange Bedfellows

The conventional wisdom is that two-thirds of business owners are Republican and one-third are Democrats. That’s misleading. In the Inc. survey, 47 percent of fast-growth CEOs describe themselves as Republicans, compared to only 17 percent who say they’re Democrats. But more than a third--36 percent--say they’re independents.

When asked about their political philosophy, as opposed to party affiliation, the results are telling. Only 31 percent say they’re conservative. Liberals are an even smaller minority, at only 10 percent. Everyone else--a whopping 59 percent--claims to be moderate.

Women CEOs, not surprisingly, are even less likely to be Republican. About a third of fast-growth women entrepreneurs said they are Republicans, a third said they are Democrats, and about a third are independents. While about two-thirds of fast-growth CEOs who are men voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the last U.S. presidential election, more than half the women--53 percent--voted for Barack Obama. 

The fact that so many of the Inc. 5000 consider themselves moderates doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for candidates on either edge of the political spectrum, be they Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (6.3 percent) or Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (15 percent). But it leaves plenty of business owners who are willing to back a Democratic woman for President--especially one whose bridge-building efforts have won praise from both sides of the political aisle and who is widely regarded as having had a pretty successful tenure as the U.S. Secretary of State. Forty percent of fast-growth CEOs who said they were independents also said they’d back Clinton. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats said they’d support her, as did 13 percent of Republicans. Among women, 61 percent said they’d back Clinton for President. 

It’s telling that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who got flak from his own party by appearing to buddy up with President Obama just a bit too much during Hurricane Sandy last year, was the only one to make a stronger showing than Hillary. More than half of independents--53 percent--said they’d back Christie for president.

It undoubtedly helps both Christie and Clinton that neither of them is currently serving in Washington. When it comes to the federal government shutdown, the threatened debt default, and the record-breaking level of dysfunction in D.C., their hands are clean. For now.

 

Based on the results of an October survey of  Inc. 5000 entrepreneurs. The survey had 306 respondents.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Oct 29, 2013

KIMBERLY WEISUL | Staff Writer | Inc.com Editor-at-Large

Kimberly Weisul is editor-at-large at Inc. and co-founder of One Thing New, the digital media startup that is rebooting women's content. She was previously a senior editor at BusinessWeek.




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