By Vicki Needham - 09/25/12 10:00 PM EDT
More than two-thirds say there is too much uncertainty in the market to expand, grow or hire new workers, while 69 percent say the Obama administration's regulatory policies have hurt businesses.
Meanwhile, 55 percent say they would not start a business today given what they know now and in the current environment.
Two of the three biggest challenges are government spending: 58 percent called it a significant challenge, while 49 percent said the same about federal, state and local taxes.
Timmons said what he has heard from his members, outside of the survey, is that government spending is not properly targeted or prioritized. There is the looming issue of the fiscal cliff, including spending cuts and tax increases, as well as a lack of attention to fixing the entitlement crisis, which is a driving debt issue.
"We do hear a great deal about the deficit and the debt and there are significant concerns about what it means for my future and future of my kids and grandkids," said Dan Danner, president and chief executive at NFIB.
Although neither NAM or NFIB weighed in on who they want in the White House, Danner said "our members believe there needs to be a change of policies and whatever it takes to make that happen.
He said current leaders in Congress and the White House "do not have a great understanding what it takes to own, operate grow a small business."
"They have no appreciation for it."
Timmons said his group is launching an initiative to sort out where anyone running for national public office stands on issues that affect his group and other businesses.
Although the economy has shown some signs of improvement — housing numbers are better and consumer confidence is bouncing back — manufacturers and small businesses dispelled that progress.
Timmons said the economy is softening because of an uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff.
"We're seeing concerns all up and down the supply chain, and certainty is a problem and bad certainty is an even worse problem," he said.
The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS), surveyed 800 small-business owners, manufacturers and decision-makers at small and medium-sized companies.