This time last year, all the pundits and political wonks were stunned by Donald Trump’s election as the 45th U.S. president, which was seen as a big-time upset. Supportive small business owners played a significant role in Trump’s victory, with 2 in 5 voting for the Republican Trump compared to 1 in 4 who voted for Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, according to our research.
Earlier this year, Womply founder Toby Scammell wrote in Forbes that these same small business owners who helped Trump win the White House would evaluate him largely on how well he fulfilled promises with regard to tax reform and health care. From Toby’s op/ed:
Trump faces the ripple effects of how small business owners react to key policy issues that affect local commerce. Specifically, American merchants will evaluate their new president — and adjust their confidence levels — based on how he prioritizes and approaches tax reform, Obamacare repeal and immigration.
As Trump’s first year as president quickly comes to a close, big policy battles are still in flux, and his administration is saddled with distractions, scandals, and everything in between. So, how are small business owners feeling about the new commander-in-chief right now?
Most still think a Trump presidency benefits them
Recently, we surveyed nearly 2,300 small business owners in all 50 states to better understand how Main Street entrepreneurs evaluate and mitigate against threats. As part of that study, we asked respondents if they think the Trump presidency was a benefit or threat to their business. Here’s what we learned:
Interestingly, about 40% consider the Trump administration to be a benefit to their business and 27% say it’s a threat, which almost perfectly aligns with the voting preferences we saw for Trump and Clinton, respectively. It’s also noteworthy that 1 in 5 small business owners don’t think the president has any impact on their companies.
There’s a generational dynamic at work, as well. We isolated responses by age, and discovered that Baby Boomer business owners are twice as likely as Millennial entrepreneurs to consider Trump “a major benefit” to their companies. Take a look:
Trump still has strong supporters... and detractors
Trump is an incredibly polarizing figure, even among local business owners. In March, we polled nearly 3,000 small business owners to gauge their optimism and see how their sentiment might translate into actions like hiring and expansion. We found that Trump’s election was a major source of optimism for his supporters AND a huge reason for pessimism among his detractors.
Months later, Trump has fewer SMB owners who approve of his performance as president, and more who disapprove, according to research from CNBC and SurveyMonkey. He also has more SMB owners who “strongly” approve AND disapprove of his performance. In other words, he’s having a polarizing influence.
Here’s a snippet from CNBC’s reporting on the survey:
In the second-quarter CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, 58 percent of business owners approved of the job Trump was doing as president, while 41 percent expressed disapproval. That gap narrowed in Q3, with 51 percent of business owners approving of the president's performance, while 47 percent disapproved. The more significant moves came among business owners who "strongly" approved or disapproved of Trump.
Trump’s “chaotic, strong” management style
Speaking of polarization, CNBC and SurveyMonkey created a word cloud from 1,800 open-ended responses from small business owners asked to describe Trump’s leadership style. Take a look:
That’s right: according to Main Street entrepreneurs, Trump’s style is a collection of contradictions: chaotic and effective, horrible and strong, aggressive and direct, dictatorial and refreshing.
No doubt, this speaks to the disparate viewpoints business owners are using to evaluate Trump’s presidency. Many prefer his unconventional style and direct approach over the careful, nuanced, and often forgettable way typical politicians operate. Others see him as a loose cannon.
So now, the jury is still out. Ultimately, Trump’s legacy among small business owners will be determined by how he handles major policy issues like tax reform and health care. Time will tell if he can galvanize enough support to push through these big-ticket initiatives.
- What would tax reform mean for small businesses?
- We ranked the top political threats to small businesses
- Beyond politics, Trump’s handling of tax, health care reform looms large for small businesses (Forbes)