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Half of Small-Business Owners Give Administration High Marks

by Coleen McMurray and Frank Newport

Story Highlights

  • Nearly half give administration an "A" or "B" for its first year performance
  • Congress gets much lower marks
  • Owners say administration has done best on the economy and creating jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- About half of U.S. small-business owners give the current presidential administration a grade of A or B for its performance on issues that have been important to their businesses over the past year. This is significantly higher than the percentage of respondents who gave high marks to state government, the Supreme Court and Congress. At the same time, more than a third of owners give the administration a grade of D or F, reflecting the polarized nature of politics today.

Half of Small Business Owners Give Administration A or B Grade
What grade would you give each of the following in terms of their performance on issues that have been important to your business over the past year: A, B, C, D, or F?
% % % % %
Current presidential administration in Washington D.C. 24 25 15 11 24
Your state government 11 28 32 13 15
Supreme Court 10 26 38 10 9
Congress 4 17 28 22 27
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, Jan. 3-9, 2018

These results are from the latest quarterly update of the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey conducted Jan. 3-9, before the brief government shutdown over the weekend of Jan. 20-22.

Clearly many small-business owners are positive about the administration's performance on issues that have been important to their business over the past year, echoing previous research showing owners' positive feelings for the business-friendly Trump administration. While small-business owners are positive toward the business-friendly Trump administration, they have little regard for the performance of Congress, even though both branches are under GOP control.

The Supreme Court and state government garner fewer very high and very low grades than the administration and Congress do. Not as many owners rate their state government or the Supreme Court with A's or B's as is the case for the administration, but owners also do not give the Supreme Court or the administration the same level of failing grades as the executive and legislative branches. More than three in 10 owners give their state government and the Supreme Court "C" grades.

The latest results come as small-business owners' overall optimism is as high as it has been since before the 2008/2009 recession, buoyed by their self-reports of strong revenue, improved cash flow and increased capital spending for their businesses.

Wells Fargo and Gallup also asked small-business owners to rate the Trump administration's performance on 10 different political and economic issues. The results vary widely, indicating that owners are distinguishing between areas of solid administration accomplishment versus areas where the results have been less evident.

  • Owners are most likely to give the administration a "good" rating on its ability to improve the overall economy and to create jobs. Half of owners also give the administration a good rating for tax reform targeted specifically at small business, and for its efforts on terrorism.

  • Slightly less than half give a good rating for overall tax reform and for dealing with regulations impacting small business.

  • The remaining four issues receive less positive ratings. Owners are more likely to give the administration a poor than a good rating for its handling of international relations, infrastructure improvements and healthcare reform.

Owners Give Administration Highest Marks for Economy, Jobs
As a small business owner, please rate the job the current presidential administration is doing since taking office in January 2017 on each of the following issues?
Good Neutral Poor
% % %
Improving the overall economy 61 15 24
Job creation 53 23 24
Tax reform impacting small business owners specifically 50 21 28
Terrorism 50 23 27
Overall tax reform 49 20 30
Regulation reform impacting small business owners 46 27 26
Incentives for opening a small business 35 39 25
International relations 34 20 45
Infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges 29 33 38
Healthcare reform 27 22 50
Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, Jan. 3-9, 2018

These ratings generally reflect the reality of the policy and economic situations in 2017. Multiple attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, failed during the year, there was little progress on an infrastructure plan and U.S. relations with other countries were strained. On the other hand, record high stock market indices and low unemployment were clear signs of a strong economy. Small-business owners also appear to recognize the efforts of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress in passing major tax reform legislation that promised big tax breaks for businesses.

Bottom Line

Small-business owners have been bullish on the new administration since the November 2016 election, evidenced by the sharp increase in owners' overall optimism measured by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. These current results show more directly that owners tend to view the performance of the administration in positive light, although this praise is not universal.

President Trump appears to have carved out an image among small-business owners that is distinctly more positive than that of Congress, which gets the most negative ratings of the four government entities measured. This pattern mirrors the low esteem in which Congress is held by the population in general.

Owners appear cognizant of the specific areas in which the administration did well in 2017 -- an improved economy, job creation, tax reform -- and likely will remain equally as or more positive about the administration if it is able to address other pressing problems in the year ahead.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 603 U.S. small-business owners in all 50 states, conducted Jan. 3-9, 2018. The margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For more information about Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, visit http://wellsfargoworks.com/. Follow us on Twitter @WellsFargoWorks.

Learn more about how the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index works.