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Small Business Optimism Dropped Sharply Last Month

Small business owners say the Presidential election is weighing heavily on their minds, according to a SurePayroll survey.

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The normally upbeat small business owner is expressing alarming concern over the economy, according to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard for September. The optimism survey found that fewer than 1 in 2--or just 45%--of small business owners are optimistic, a sharp 15-point drop from 60% in August.

This drop in optimism has likely caused the small business economy to decelerate, as our survey shows hiring down 0.2% and paychecks flat. This spells potentially bad news for growth in the near future, and maybe even beyond.

Why has the glass suddenly become half empty to a group of people who are normally ready to take on the world, regardless of the odds of success? The election seems to be weighing heavily on the minds of small business owners.

When we asked them whether the election was having an impact on how optimistic or pessimistic they are about the economy, and an overwhelming 77% of 411 respondents said yes.

So what specifically is driving small business owners' vote? On top of their collective list is: fiscal policy, tax policy, health care, the national debt, and national security.

Here are some other highlights of how small business owners are viewing the election:

  • 61% plan to vote for Mitt Romney; 33% for Barack Obama.
  • 66% say Romney is better for small businesses; 34% say Obama is.
  • 67% say Romney better represents their views on fiscal policy, while 33% say Obama does.
  • 57% say Romney best represents their social views, while 43% say Obama does.
  • 65% say Romney would drive more job creation, while 35% say Obama would.

While these survey results among small business owners may not surprise political reporters, the level at which optimism has been knocked off track is alarming. Whoever is elected and whatever he plans to do to create more jobs, he better keep small businesses top of mind. Small companies, after all, will ultimately help put the country back to work. 

Last updated: Oct 2, 2012

MICHAEL ALTER is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.
@michaelalter




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