An opinion on Thumtack.com/GW University Small Business Political Survey

I was forwarded an early look at a survey that was produced by George Washington University’s School of Political Management in conjunction with Thumbtack.com. As some readers know, I am an honest to goodness small business owner. Two business actually and they are as different as say a private practice physician and a florist. So…………I guess this is what has lead to a request of me to opine on this survey’s results.
 
 
I googled Thumbtack.com. I had never heard of them. There is some controversy out their regarding their business model. Yet, Thumbtack.com claims 250K users. The survey was of 6000 plus of their members. They have taken some steps to assure their sampling represents the distribution of small business throughout the nation. I’m going to trust that GW’s school knows how to do and produce a scientifically valid survey. Thumbtack.com had teamed up with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation early this year. This work attempted to come up with a ranking of business friendliness based on the experiences of small business within a given state.
 
The headline, take away finding is presented as follows:
 
40% of all small business owners nationwide rate the economy and jobs as the most important factor in choosing a president. Ethics, honesty, and corruption in government is the second-most important factor for small businesses.
Considering ethics, honesty and corruption came in at 15% and the next item to be ranked the top issue was so ranked by 6% with the percentages becoming smaller to 2% for the issue of foreign policy I would say 40%ranking the economy and jobs the number one issue is kind of an intuitively expected finding because every other issue considered in the survey fell so far behind.  After all, we are talking business owners.
 
I’m not going to take issue with the findings or the methodology though, do feel free to comment on such as it can only help the discussion. My issue is with the “issues” used as the subjects of the survey questions. I am confident that this survey did find what it states it found. I believe though that it could not find anything other than what it found in that the issues presented are presented in the language regularly heard over the last 12 years and in some cases 20 or 30 years. You combine such presentation with the ability to answer with opinion and you get findings that for me simply confirm that political messaging has value. We are talking the GWU’s School of Political Management.
 
For example, asking what is the most important sub issue regarding the economy you get to choose from:
Federal budget deficit
Financial and banking system
Gas/fuel prices
Health care costs
Home values and the housing market
Inflation/rising prices
No opinion
Other
Personal debt
Social Security
Student Loans
Taxes
Unemployment and the job market
 
Is there anything you see on this list that is not discussed or presented by our MSM as something their viewers or readers or listeners should be concerned about? “Other” does not count. I have never heard the MSM present an article suggesting that “Other” is something a small business person should be aware of.
 
Do you know what is missing from this list? How about: Income inequality? How about: Your area’s average income? How about: Reduced Government Spending within your market area? Let’s be blunt. How about: No customers? 
 
Unemployment and the job market did reach number one for 26.55% of the respondents. I’m sure small business owners understand they can’t obtain their business goals in a high unemployment/low job development area as easily can be done in the opposite environment, but really, even low priced Walmart is loosing to even lower priced Dollar Stores. There is only one reason for this: declining average income, yet there is nothing in this survey that got at this issue. For me, as an expert in small business do to my being a small business having to deal with no customers just seems to drive me to think a whole lot broader about my place within the social puzzle.  Did I mention I have small business owner friends?  Eighty three percent of the members of my band are small business owners.  The other 17% is a government employee. Customers, the idea, the concept of “customer” is the base concept for any business, never mind just small business.  It’s an actual MSM issue too.   Well, at least the customer aspect related to wages. 
 
Here is what lead me down this path such that my interpretation of this survey (and their prior survey) are nothing more than a confirmation, regurgitation of the MSM sound bite news: taxes. Taxes are at the bottom of importance over all. Just 2% ranked it as the number one issue. One might say that such a ranking invalidates my opinion. Except, 5.8% ranked it as the number one sub issue on the economy. It is ranked higher than everything but: Unemployment/job market, Fed budget/debt, healthcare cost, finance/banking, , inflation/rising prices. (listed high to low)
 
But, it was not the answer to the question of what subcategory of the economy was important that nailed it for me. That just got my curiosity up. Taxes are big with the MSM so why has society’s segment known as “small business” not ranked this higher?
 
I present to you page 22 of the linked report: How important are the following issues to the success of your business?”
Answered as “Very Important” are the following:
Tax rates and tax related regulation 52%
State Small Business Incentives: 49%
Federal Small Business Incentives: 45%
 
I now present to you page 23:  “How burdensome are the following costs to your business?”
Answered as “Very Burdensome”
Self employment taxes 49%
Personal Income taxes 42%
Social Security tax 39%
Only one item beat these three: Gas/fuel costs 59%
 
Are you seeing a disconnect here? I am. Do you think the respondents are complaining about the burden of taxes while they keep in mind that they are concerned about government incentives? Am I to believe that the concern about incentives for these members of society is that they are to much, especially when they are saying they are important to their business success? Yet over all, “taxes” only ranked the number one issue for 2% of those 6000 plus members surveyed? Now go read the survey that came out before this one. Try to gel the best ranked states with the lack of concern in this election for taxes.
 
There is some hope here with this survey and it is as big a headline as the 40% that put the economy number 1. Minimum Wage. 64% said it was NOT burdensome or NOT SO burdensome.
 
Actually, it’s a bigger headline…isn’t it?
 
 

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