Bipartisan Poll Shows Small Businesses Concerned About Economy, Lawsuits, Effectiveness of Government Actions

Bipartisan Poll (pdf)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Small business owners are much more pessimistic than average voters about the national economy and hold negative views of…

WASHINGTON, D.C.—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 percent 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 percent of business owners say they are not confident in the future of their own company. Additionally, approximately seven 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.

For the analysis of the survey of small business owners, visit: Bipartisan Poll

Other highlights from the poll include:

Small Business Views on Lawsuits

  • One in three (35 percent) 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 percent believe that the number of lawsuits against companies will continue to increase over the next five years.
  • If targeted in a lawsuit: 74 percent of small business owners say companies such as theirs would very likely have to pass those costs on to their customers; 68 percent say they would very likely have to reduce existing employees’ benefits; and 71 percent 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 percent say the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals; 32 percent 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 percent of the time, while trial lawyers’ ideas and viewpoints are considered 71 percent 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 percent of all Americans.

Survey Methodology: From August 19-31, 2010, Public Opinion Strategies and Douglas Schoen LLC completed 1000 interviews with individuals who identified themselves as the owner, president, partner, CEO, financial officer or VP/Senior manager at a private company with fewer than 500 employees as per SBA designations for certain small businesses. Ninety-six percent (96%) had fewer than 100 employees, and a majority (58%) had 2-5 employees. Respondents’ companies represented a wide range of industries and were located in all 50 states. Interviews were conducted both on-line (N=400) and via telephone (N=600) to ensure a wide range of types of businesses and individuals. The margin of error associated with a sample of this type is + 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

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.