Small Business Prominent at Conventions

September 4, 2012

In addition to “Here’s why the other guy’s no good” there is another common theme that has been front-and-center during the Republican and Democratic convention: small business. Last week, the Republicans highlighted numerous small-business owners, giving many floor time to talk about their business and their own efforts to bolster that business. Democrats also have created a special place for small-business owners: the Democratic party’s Small Business Owners Council.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why small business is such an easy target: small business is the epitome of the American dream. However, politicians aren’t just pandering to a pro-America audience, likely they realize what an active and involved voting block small business is. According to NSBA’s recent Politics of Small Business Survey, 97 percent of small-business owners regularly vote in national contests and 69 percent have contributed to a candidate’s campaign. In comparrison, only 57 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2008 presidential election.

At the Republican National Convention, the national debt and struggling economy were key themes in talking about small business, but the most commonly-chanted mantra was, with an eye toward a remark made previously by President Barack Obama, “We did build it.” Underscoring the challenges facing small business in the U.S., most Republican speakers cited burdensome regulations and taxes, and health care costs as primary roadblocks to entrepreneurship.

While the Democratic Convention is just now underway, the party held its first-ever meeting of the Small Business Owners Council aimed at outlining the small-business message on which President Obama ought to focus. Chief among those, Obama’s efforts to bolster lending offerings from the U.S. Small Business Administration and improve overall bank lending to small businesses. The council also talked about various tax breaks signed into law by President Obama during his first term.

While both sides work to get small business solidly in their corner, it’s important to note that, according to NSBA data, 80 percent of small businesses do not vote a straight party ticket. Sixty percent of Republicans say they occasionally vote for a Democrat and 68 percent of Democrats say they occasionally vote for a Republican. Furthermore, both Republican and Democratic small-business owners say economic and fiscal issues drive their voting decisions, above foreign affairs and social issues.

Certainly, small-business owners have their own opinions on which party is better on a particular small-business issue, however where Democratic and Republican small-business owners find broad agreement is the opinion that Congress and the administration don’t really understand small business. Furthermore, small-business owners have expressed significant disappointment expressed in the U.S. political system with the majority of Republican (85 percent) and Democratic (89 percent) small-business owners believing politics have become more partisan in the last 10 years.

For more information on NSBA’s Politics of Small Business Survey, please click here.