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U.S. Chamber Releases Bipartisan Poll Highlighting Small Business Leaders’ Concerns with Health Care Law

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 8:00pm

More Uncertainty about Hiring, Investing in Their Business; Expect Costs Will Increase

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Six months after enactment of the new health reform law, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today released a national bipartisan poll of small business leaders, shedding light on the uncertainty employers are feeling as a result of the new law. The poll of 590 small business leaders was conducted September 18-20 by Frank Luntz and Doug Schoen.

“Nearly 8 in 10 small business leaders expect their costs to increase as a result of the new law, and a majority say they will be less likely to hire new employees and more likely to reduce current health care benefits” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits for the U.S. Chamber. “This poll shows that the very small business leaders who are being counted on to grow jobs are deeply unsettled about the present and concerned about the future, and a tremendous amount of that uncertainty is due to the new health care law.”

“It’s tragic when the profession people respect most, the small business owner, is so ignored by Washington,” said Luntz, president and CEO of The Word Doctors and nationally recognized pollster. “Small business owners are sending Washington a wake-up call: If you want us to hire more, stop making our lives so difficult.”

“It is clear that small businesses continue to grapple with the new law six months after its enactment,” said Doug Schoen, principal of Douglas E Schoen LLC and nationally recognized pollster. “As a result, small businesses are less likely to create jobs, less confident in their ability to succeed, and consequently less capable of helping to lead our economy out of this downturn.”

Poll Overview and Summary

Luntz and Schoen polled 590 small business leaders nationwide September 18-20, 2010 – including owners/founders, CEOs, Senior Vice Presidents, Chief Operating Officers, and Human Resources Directors – with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Perceptions about the new healthcare legislation is clearly a contributing factor in overall small business concerns. A sizeable 78% of small business leaders expect their business costs will increase as a result of the new healthcare law. In fact, regardless of whether the business is 20 employees or 200 employees, at least 75% of small business leaders across all sizes expected their costs to rise as a direct result of the legislation. The political consequences are significant.

  • 60% of small business leaders say that, as a result of the new healthcare law, they are more likely to consider reducing healthcare benefits to their employees.
  • Just 29% are more confident about “adding new employees and investing in their business,” while 49% are less confident.

The general small business outlook is rather bleak. Fully 52% of small business leaders are either “somewhat more” or “much more discouraged” about the future based on current policies from Congress and The White House today. The intensity gap is striking: just 14% of small business leaders are “much more encouraged,” while 33% are “much more discouraged.” And the most negative, pessimistic group of all … owners themselves. Only 24% are encouraged about the future based on what they see coming out of Washington, while 64% are more discouraged.

The size of the business matters – and the smallest businesses are most in jeopardy. The smaller the business, the more fearful they are and the more likely they are to believe the current Congress and Administration’s policies will impact them negatively. In fact, almost half (44%) of all small businesses under 20 people are concerned they won’t survive the next five years.

Owners of small businesses are deeply unsettled about the present and concerned about the future. Fully 56% of actual small business owners (with 5 to 200 employees) are “somewhat” or “very uncertain” about “making long-term business decisions and future business investments” and 46% are somewhat/very uncertain that they will still exist five years from now.

The memo and final poll are available here: Poll Memo   Listen to the conference call. (mp3)  Read the transcript. (PDF)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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