Study Finds Cautious Optimism Among Small-Business Owners

A new survey has found that while small-business owners in the U.S. are optimistic about the upcoming months, only 27% plan to add full-time staff to their payrolls this year.

That is a central finding in the first CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, which asked more than 2,000 small business owners questions about the future of their companies, along with the state of the economy and American politics.

As part of the study, CNBC and SurveyMonkey created the Small Business Confidence Index (SBCI) with a 0-100 scale. The overall index value was 60, indicating more optimism than pessimism for small-business owners over the next 12 months. A reading of 100 indicates perfect optimism.

Male respondents had a confidence level of 62, versus females’ level of 56. Men were also more likely to predict an increase in revenues over the next 12 months, and to state that taxation and regulation changes would have a positive effect on their businesses in the same timeframe.

Overall, more than four in 10 respondents believe that changes in tax policy will have a positive effect on their businesses, while 24% say it will be negative. Meanwhile, 38% say changes in regulation will be positive, versus 26% negative. Additionally, 27% report that changes in trade policy will be positive; 22% say negative. Nearly a quarter (24%) believe changes in immigration policy will have a positive effect on their business, equal to the number who say it will be negative.

More respondents identified as Republicans (38%) than Democrats (23%), and 58% approve of Donald Trump’s job as president so far.

The survey was conducted from April 17-28, 2017, using SurveyMonkey’s online platform. It includes data from 2,030 self-identified small-business owners.