After two years of a Donald Trump presidency, how are small business owners responding? As it turns out, the majority are optimistic and expanding. A Business.com survey of more than 1,700 small business owners found that respondents are generally positive about the Trump administration's policies so far and believe the next two years will be equally favorable.
Small business owners heartened by Trump admin policies
Most small business owners surveyed reported that they were more optimistic with Trump in the White House. Respondents were largely unaffected by the government shutdown, and many said business has been strong enough that they are planning to expand their staff in the next year. The numbers were overwhelmingly positive on all fronts.
- More than 73 percent of respondents are optimistic about their small businesses' trajectories over the course of the next two years, due to Trump administration policies.
- More than 64 percent of respondents strongly agree that they believe the Trump administration has their small businesses' best interests at heart.
- More than 62 percent of respondents said the government shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019 had no impact on their small business.
- 52 percent of respondents reported that they plan on expanding their staff in the next year.
These numbers suggest small business owners are generally optimistic enough about the near future under Trump to continue growing. But what about the impact of specific policies?
Key policy takeaways after two years of Trump
The Trump White House has overseen the implementation of major tax reform policy, as well as a shift in the way U.S. trade policy is conducted. The administration has also loosened rules to make the creation of Association Health Plans (AHPs) easier. Here's how small business owners said these Trump policy initiatives are impacting them:
- Tax policy reform: One of the Trump administration's first policy moves was to enact a sweeping tax reform law in December 2017. The law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced both the individual income and corporate tax rates, and doubled the standard deduction. More than 34 percent of respondents said their tax liability decreased under the law, while more than 21 percent plan on increasing capital investments as a result.
- Association Health Plans: In lieu of "repealing and replacing" the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration moved to offer employers a choice of AHPs in June 2018. These plans essentially allow small businesses to buy into group health plans together and are intended to offer small businesses a cost-effective way to offer more competitive benefits. However, nearly 35 percent of respondents said they were not considering the creation of AHPs.
- Trade policy and tariffs: The Trump administration's approach to trade policy has included the levy of new tariffs on trading partners, including the European Union and China. For more than 20 percent of respondents, these tariffs have resulted in price hikes by their suppliers. For more than 30 percent, though, changes in trade policy have had no significant impact.
The survey respondents also offered insights into their top policy priorities in 2019. Immigration reform was the leading policy priority, with 30 percent of respondents identifying it as their most important issue. That was closely followed by healthcare policy and tax policy, each of which are the most important issue to 25 percent of respondents. Finally, 20 percent of respondents said trade policy was their top priority.
Support, muted concern in open-ended comments
As part of the survey, Business.com asked the small business community for general thoughts about the entrepreneurial experience under the Trump administration so far. Much like the survey responses, most of these comments were positive. Others, however, expressed some concern and said policy changes had a negative impact on their business. Here are some of the open-ended responses we received from small business owners:
- "Reduction of regulations has opened new business and is freeing up resources for my company and clients to utilize my services. Continued smaller government will grow more small businesses."
- "Our customers have such a good outlook on future business [that] they are spending and we are busier than any time during the Obama years."
- "The trade laws must change. All businesses have been impacted and now prices for all merchandise has risen … This has had a negative impact on my business."
Among survey respondents, there is little discontent with the Trump administration's current course of action. While some expressed concern around the administration's policy moves in its first two years, many small business owners are eagerly awaiting the next two years of Trump and overwhelmingly believe they will bring positive developments for their companies.