Donald Trump claims to be a champion of small businesses.
On January 30th, he tweeted:
The American dream is back. We're going to create an environment for small business like we haven't had in many, many decades!
Yet there is a disconnect between Trump’s rhetoric and small business owners’ sentiment.
The Localwise team set out to better understand how small business owners, the creators of two-thirds of the new jobs in America, feel about Donald Trump. After polling over a hundred small business owners, the results were clear: Small business owners believe Trump is “bad” for small business and local communities.
Trump and Small Business
Below are the top 10 themes that emerged from the survey. Of these, 6 were negative towards Trump, 2 positive, and 2 neutral. The quotes used throughout this survey come from survey respondents.
Trump Fosters Uncertainty — Trump’s erratic behavior and policies are increasing uncertainty. Small business owners hate uncertainty. As one small business owner put it "Trump is making planning nearly impossible."
Some small business owners also believe that the cost of uncertainty is not evenly distributed, claiming Trump’s policies are “psychologically destabilizing our economy and hurting the underserved in our society.”
Trump’s Immigration Policies Are Harmful — Trump’s recent executive action has raised concerns—particularly in the food industry—that immigrants will be deported. Such policies increase the cost of labor for small businesses and may lead to the deportation of existing staff. In the words of one survey respondent, “our staff is despondent and terrified.”
Trump Lacks a Healthcare Plan — Trump wants to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare but has not offered a discrete plan. Small business owners fear "Trump will jeopardize access to affordable individual healthcare options which all small business employees rely on."
Trump Only Cares About Big Business — Trump’s past business accomplishments are in “big business only.” Small business owners are not convinced that Trump cares about small businesses, citing Trump’s poor relationships with past contractors as proof. Put another way, “Trump doesn't care about the dream, he cares about Corporate America…”
Trump Threatens Local Spirit — Many respondents feel that Trump is “undoing Americans’ faith in one another,” which is the “important glue that drives patronage of local business.” Respondents are also concerned about class relationships, stating, “He will grow the divide between rich and poor so that small business workers will feel marginalized and helpless.”
Trump Increases the Risk of a Recession — A handful of respondents predicted that Trump’s policies we lead to a recession. Negative sentiment adversely impacts future business investments. One respondent said that they "are trying to solidify [their] economic position to bear several years of recession.”
Trump Will Reduce Regulations — On the positive side, many respondents believe that Trump’s history as a business person positions Trump to eliminate “useless regulations” that make starting and running a business challenging.
Trump Will Lower Taxes Corporate Taxes — Trump is publicly in favor of lowering corporate tax rates, which could increase spending for businesses to help drive more investment and employment.
Trump Doesn’t Hold the Power — Many responses questioned how much power Trump, or any president, has to impact small businesses. One respondent provided some historical context, stating, “I've waited 30 years for someone to focus on issues that are relevant to small business. Unfortunately, nothing will change...”
Give Trump a Chance — Given that Trump has been in office for less than a month, some respondents want to give Trump more time before stating their opinions. In reference to Trump’s positions, one respondent noted, “some may be hyperbole, some may be real, and some may be false."
Survey Details & Results
Localwise surveyed small business owners from our community of 6,000+ small businesses, mostly concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. We define a small business as having fewer than 100 employees.
38% of respondents have fewer than 5 employees, 23% have 5-10, 12% have 11-20, 17% have 21-50, and 10% have 51-100. Our respondents spanned across numerous industries; however, results did not vary significantly based on the size or industry of the business.
We asked small business owners to rate Trump from 1 to 5 across four questions: 1 (really bad); 2 (bad); 3 (neutral); 4 (good); 5 (really good). Here are the results:
Is Trump good or bad for small businesses across America?
Average response: 2.06
Is Trump good or bad for your small businesses?
Average response: 2.12
Is Trump good or bad for jobs in local communities across America?
Average response: 1.90
Is Trump good or bad for jobs in your local community?
Average response: 1.95
Small business owners felt Trump is slightly better for their own business or community versus comparable populations across America. Overall, the results were consistent: small business owners believe Trump is “bad” for both small businesses and local communities.
We also asked: How will Trump impact small businesses, local jobs, and/or local communities? Quotes used above are in response to this question.
While the results were overall negative, it’s important to note three caveats:
Localwise’s approach to gathering such information was neutral. This survey was not meant to promote a partisan position, but rather to uncover the sentiment of small business owners towards Trump.
Not all respondents believe Trump is “bad.” In fact, 23% of respondents rated Trump favorably and 7% rated him “really good” across all four questions.
Most responses focused on real fears that drive business decisions, not partisan politics.
Based on Localwise’s survey, small business owners consistently believe Trump is “bad” for small businesses and local communities. This is of great concern as small businesses create two-thirds of the new jobs in America.
We encourage Trump and his team to take the survey results seriously. Trump should know that there is a disconnect between his rhetoric and small business owners’ sentiment. Most importantly, legitimate concerns exist within the small business community that may adversely impact the creation of new jobs in America.
For Trump to “Make America Great Again,” he will need to build bridges with small business owners.