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For business tax expert Tony Nitti, the significance of this year’s presidential election for Main Street entrepreneurs can’t be understated.
“With zero hesitation, I can say this is the hardest voting decision small business owners have ever faced,” said the partner focused on federal tax at the accounting firm RubinBrown.
A coronavirus pandemic that has rocked many small businesses and caused a previously humming economy to fall into recession, civil unrest that led to downtown closures across the U.S., a cultural divide that is bigger than ever before — and that’s before taking into account the differences between President Trump and Joe Biden on the core business, tax and trade issues that historically have guided many business owner voting decisions.
“I do think there are more variables this election than in recent elections,” said Kevin Kuhlman, vice president of federal government relations at the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “The policy differences are stark, and we have the pandemic creating uncertainty and need for additional financial assistance. There are many short-term and long-term issues that would factor in, and would make a decision difficult.”
Entrepreneurs do vote in large numbers — 95% of small-business owners vote regularly in national contests, according to the National Small Business Association — and the demographic does skew conservative. Forty percent of small-business owners identify as Republican, versus 29% identifying as Democrats, and another 25% who say they are independent. An increasing portion of business owners indicate that they are voting on a more polarized basis. Straight party ticket votes have increased from 18% in 2014 to 27% today, according to a forthcoming survey from the trade group. In 2016, 40% said that neither party best represents their small business, but today, that number is down to 26%.
“More and more are picking sides,” said Molly Day, NSBA spokeswoman.
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