WASHINGTON —Small business owners are much more pessimistic than average voters about the national economy and hold negative views of Washington’s attempts at solving problems, according to a national bipartisan poll conducted by Bill McInturff and Doug Schoen for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The survey also shows that small business owners are among the most motivated about this fall’s elections.
“This poll reveals that there is a lot of fear among business owners in this current economic climate,” said U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and ILR President Lisa Rickard.
According to the survey of 1,000 small business owners, 78% of respondents say that the U.S. economy will either remain stagnant or get worse over the next year. This is a gloomier assessment than the 64% of adult voters who answered the same way in an August 10 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Also, two-thirds of small business owners (65%) say government is doing too much that is better left to businesses and individuals, compared to 49% of general voters. Respondents are more interested in the November elections than the general population by a 75% to 70% margin.
The survey also shows that lawsuits are a major concern for small business owners and an obstacle to economic growth. Seventy eight percent say that if Congress passes laws allowing trial lawyers to bring more lawsuits, it would have a negative impact on the economic climate affecting their businesses. In addition, 92% say the poor economy has made it more difficult for their company to absorb the additional costs, time, and other issues related to a lawsuit.
“Our economy is in trouble and lawsuits are only making matters worse for America’s small business owners and the communities that rely on them to create jobs,” Rickard said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating two-thirds of all new jobs in the United States, yet many small businesses hold a startlingly grim assessment of their futures.”
McInturff and Schoen’s poll showed that 32% of business owners say they are not confident in the future of their own company. Additionally, approximately 7 in 10 small business owners say that a lawsuit or the potential for a lawsuit translates to increased costs that would make businesses like theirs hold back on hiring, cut back on existing employees’ benefits, and pass costs on to their customers.
Other highlights from the poll include:
Small Business Views on Lawsuits
One in three (35%) of all small businesses have been sued or threatened with a lawsuit.
Sixty four percent say that lawsuits have been on the rise, and 68% believe that the number of lawsuits against companies will continue to increase over the next five years.
If targeted in a lawsuit: 74% of small business owners say companies such as theirs would very likely have to pass those costs on to their customers; 68% say they would very likely have to reduce existing employees’ benefits; and 71% say they would very likely have to hold back on hiring new employees.
Small Businesses Views on Government and the Election
Given a choice of two answers, 65% say the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals; 32% said government should do more to solve problems and meet peoples’ needs.
Those surveyed believe that the ideas and viewpoints of small businesses are taken into account by decision makers in Washington 28% of the time, while trial lawyers’ ideas and viewpoints are considered 71% of the time.
Fifty six percent of small business owners would vote in November to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, compared to 47% of all Americans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.