Small businesses prefer Trump — but not as much as you might think

Small businesses prefer Trump — but not as much as you might think
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say MORE (I-Vt.) may have won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, but small business owners still prefer President Trump.

That's the indication from a new poll released earlier this week by research firm Gallup and payments provider Square. Of the 1,234 small business owners running companies with annual revenues between $50,000 and $25,000,000 surveyed, 90 percent said that they were either paying "a lot" or "some" attention to the election campaign and almost all said they planned to vote this November. This is a large and important block of voters, and their support will make a significant difference in this year’s elections.

So, whom do they like? So far, it's Trump. Sixty percent of small business owners said they approved of the job that Trump is doing and more than half (52 percent) said that their business would be better off if he's elected. Small business owners are happy with lower taxes, the stronger economy and the decrease in government regulations.

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They also like the Republican Party. Forty percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans and the majority of respondents felt that – with the exception of health care and climate change – the Republican Party was "better able to handle" all the top issues important to them.

“Most small-business owners rate the financial condition of their business positively - 56% say it is ‘excellent’ and 38% ‘good’ - and 69% report that their business benefited from the 2017 tax reform law,” according to the study. “More than seven in ten say they reinvested over one-quarter of the savings that resulted from the tax law in their business.”

So does this mean that the president will run away with the support of small businesses come November? Not so fast. While there’s a lot of good news in this survey for Trump, there is still hope for the Democratic candidates.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg actually beats the president in a head to head matchup, although by a small margin 52 to 48 percent. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say MORE is at even money. Former Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll 2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day What to watch in the debate tonight MORE is only a point behind. And what about Sanders, New Hampshire's big winner? Both he and Warren would lose to the president by four percentage points 52-48.  It’s the biggest difference among all the Democrats, but certainly not insurmountable.

Doesn’t this come as a surprise? To me, it does, and to the president should be concerned. Here is a guy who has done just about everything that a business owner could want on policy. He’s reduced taxes, decreased regulations and overseen one of the most pro-business administrations in recent memory. The economy has grown under him, and small businesses are doing financially well. Yet still, he’s pretty much running neck and neck with most of his potential Democratic opponents — even the most liberal ones. What gives?

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I know what. It’s uncertainty…again. You would think that after four years of Trump we would know what we were getting with a second term. But we still don’t. Even with all that we’ve learned about him, most small businesses are still uncertain about their future under his leadership. Will his erratic behavior cause problems? Will further partisanship continue to freeze Washington? Will our businesses suffer because of this? So far, so good. But were we just lucky to avoid big problems these past few years?

The important takeaway is this: Going into the election season, the president is still the frontrunner among small business owners. But not by a lot, which is interesting considering all of the reasons why small businesses should be overwhelmingly supporting him. Sure, more of those polled (40 percent) identified themselves as Republicans. But more than a quarter said they were “independent,” and it will likely be these voters who decide the president’s fate. Obviously, this community of 30 million still has concerns about reelecting President Trump, and all with good reason.

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.