Elections Causing Drop in Small Business Confidence

Uncertainty over the upcoming presidential and congressional elections has contributed to a drop in the confidence of small-business owners. The most recent Bank of America Small-Business Owner Report for this spring found that only 29% of owners feel the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – a steep decline in optimism from a year ago.

Produced semi-annually, the report revealed that more than two-thirds of small-business owners believe that the presidential election will affect their company “a lot” or “somewhat.” Similarly, 53% feel congressional elections will impact their operations. Nearly four in five owners, meanwhile, are concerned about the “effectiveness” of U.S. government leaders, which was higher than last year, but in line with previous election years in 2012 and 2014.

“As a result, owners are taking a wait-and-see approach before making major investments in the growth of their businesses,” said Robb Hilson, a small-business executive at Bank of America. “We also see this trend when it comes to hiring, as the majority of small-business owners we surveyed this spring plan to keep the same number of employees over the next 12 months, perhaps suggesting they are waiting until after the election to reassess hiring plans.”

Beyond anxiety over the national political situation, small-business owners feel increasingly worried about the stock market and health-care costs. Even so, confidence has improved when it comes to other economic factors, including commodities prices, interest rates and credit availability, the report found.

As part of the study, Bank of America analyzed generational differences in economic outlook. Against the stereotypical grain, Generation X is more confident in the national economy improving (41%) than either millennials (34%) or baby boomers (28%). Conversely, however, millennials are the most upbeat when it comes to the outlook for their businesses this year, with 81% expecting revenue growth. That’s 16 percentage points more than Gen X (65%) and 35 percentage points more than boomers (46%). All are equally concerned about the impact of the 2016 elections.