In addition to some pretty telling data on the proposed minimum wage increase, the online survey of 1,500 entrepreneurs reveals a lot about what small businesses think about politicians and their policies toward business, and anyone running for office in the midterms would do well to listen. While politicians love to pay lip service to small-business owners, the poll suggests few actually court them as a real base. And there are votes to be had, or swayed, in this fractious bunch.
Although business owners tend to be pretty conservative in their political leanings, according to the poll, two critical groups that buck that trend are women and millennials. Women business owners favor an increased minimum wage, for example. And nearly a third of the millennial bloc, which is the largest constituency after the Baby Boomers, would just as soon vote for a stuffed giraffe as any of the established political parties.
“[Neither] political party has proven to be overwhelmingly supportive of small business," Zach Haller, a millennial entrepreneur and founder of online lost and found service FOUNDiNTOWN, told Manta in a follow-up interview. "In my opinion, an ideal candidate would be someone who’s less driven by social issues and rhetoric and more concerned with providing real, pragmatic solutions that address the needs of new businesses in dynamic markets."
When it comes to the midterms themselves, 81 percent of entrepreneurs plan to vote for a challenger and 19 percent for the incumbent. Thirty-two percent say Republicans are best for business, and 19 percent say Democrats are. Twelve percent view the Tea Party as the most pro-business, and just 7 percent say Independent candidates are.
Where the Votes Are
In fact, if the 2016 election were held right now, here's how business owners might vote, based on these candidates' commitment to small business:
- Mitt Romney
- Rand Paul
- Hilary Clinton
- Marco Rubio
- Jeb Bush
On the minimum wage front, entrepreneurs are about split, with 40 percent saying they'd vote for a candidate who supports a federal minimum wage increase, and 37 percent saying they'd oppose such a candidate. Fifty percent of women would support a pro-increase candidate, compared to 38 percent of men.
Still, there's an obvious opportunity in the millennial vote, for any politician savvy enough to court them. While just half of millennial entrepreneurs voted in 2012, nearly 70 percent plan to vote in the midterms this fall. Slightly more than a quarter say Republicans support small businesses most, while more millennials say the Tea Party supports business (16 percent) than Democrats (14 percent). And a resounding 28 percent choose no party at all.
And it's still the economy, stupid. Far and away the biggest concern to all entrepreneurs was the economy, noted by a third of all respondents. Only 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively, said taxes and health care were the biggest concerns for them.
The big takeaway: If I were any other Democrat running for office during the midterms besides Hillary Clinton, I'd be worried. But I'd also look to young business owners to see what I could do for them.