Hillary Clinton's second presidential campaign is only ten days old -- but she's already won over a surprising number of small-business owners.
A new survey finds that 42 percent of entrepreneurs say that the best candidate for small business is actually Hillary Clinton. That statistic comes from Manta, which polled more than 1,000 small-business owners online. It's a pretty big number, given the conventional wisdom that business owners tend to lean Republican.
There's no doubt that Clinton benefits from the fact that the Republican field is still fragmented, and from the perception that she's a known quantity. That leads some entrepreneurs to think she'd be unlikely to introduce destabilizing changes that would affect their businesses or general business optimism.
"The president who's best for my small business is the president that inspires confidence in the American economy, and in our future," says Morra Aarons-Mele, founder of Women Online, a five-person digital marketing agency. Her clients include corporations, not-for-profits, and foundations, and she says that whether or not she gets hired can often depend upon the economic outlook of her would-be clients. "Are large organizations feeling like taking a risk and investing in marketing?" she asks, "Or are they in a retrenchment mode?"
The Manta poll was open to all visitors to Manta.com who identified themselves as entrepreneurs. That makes them quite different from the entrepreneurs helming the Inc. 5000, which are the fastest-growing privately-held businesses in the country. Yet in a survey about a year-and-a-half ago, members of the Inc. 5000 also showed a relatively high level of support for a Clinton candidacy.
In that survey, 36 percent of entrepreneurs said they would support Hillary Clinton for president. That was more than any other would-be candidate aside from (a pre-Bridgegate) New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whom 47 percent of respondents said they would support. Inc. 5000 honorees next favored Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
In the more-recent Manta poll, Clinton's runner-up was Paul, but he got only 17 percent of the vote. Senator Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) came in next, at 12 percent; followed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) with 11 percent, and Bush with nine percent.
Members of the Inc. 5000 were also reluctant to classify themselves along party lines. Among those survey respondents, 47 percent identified themselves as Republicans, compared to only 17 percent who said they were Democrats. More than a third -- 36 percent -- said they were Independents.
Rich Duncan, president of 23-employee Rich Duncan Construction, in Salem, Ore., doesn't think the Democrats in general are good for business in his state. While he's still researching the likely Republican candidates, he says he's just "really surprised" that Clinton would garner such support.
A proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 recently passed the Oregon Senate and is headed to the state House; mandatory sick time is also on the horizon. Duncan is concerned about both, and thinks they'd be less likely to become law with more Republicans in office.
Such proposals make him less likely to support any Democrat, including Clinton, he says. "I provide five days of sick time for my employees. That's my choice, and it should be my choice as an employer," he says. "I don't know if people understand that who we elect affects that."
But Jason van den Brand, the founder and CEO of 15-person Lenda in San Francisco, is actually counting on a Democratic president to be pro-regulation, at least in his industry. His company helps consumers refinance their homes online, and he blames, in part, lax regulation and oversight for the financial crisis that began in 2008.
He's dismayed to see banks continue to lobby for less regulation, but likes Clinton's support of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2011. Says van den Brand: "For this reason alone, my vote at this time goes to Hillary Clinton."