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Economy to Drive Small-Business Owners’ Vote: Principal Financial Survey

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A just released survey by The Principal Financial Group has found that while the state of the economy will have the most impact on small-business owners’ vote in the upcoming presidential election, the top concern among small-business owners today is managing health care costs and understanding how health care reform impacts their businesses.

The Principal notes that the findings of its 2012 Well-Being Index for Business Owners is particularly timely since the term “small business” was used 26 times during the first presidential debate and because 99% of small business owners are registered to vote.

The survey, conducted online between Aug. 7 and Aug. 27 within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Principal, polled 604 business owners in companies with 10 to 500 employees.

While the state of the economy was the top financial issue selected by business owners (37%) as having the most impact on their vote in the upcoming presidential election, health care reform and taxes were tied for second, each selected by 15% of business owners.

However, one-fourth (24%) rated their top concern as managing the cost and administrative responsibilities of health care, with an equal number (24%) stating that understanding how health care reform impacts their business being their top concern for the well-being of their business.

The survey also notes that while two out of three business owners (67%) are holding off on making long-term financial commitments because of the state of the economy, business owners are planning on adding staff and expanding their operations in the next year.

Four in ten (42%) business owners plan to add to staff, compared with 15% who plan to reduce staff, the survey found, while almost one-third (31%) are planning to expand business operations in the U.S. One-quarter (28%) of business owners are not planning any changes.

The survey also found that more than half of business owners say health care costs (57%) and economic growth (54%) are affecting business decisions.

Approximately 4 in 10 business owners say uncertainty of taxes (45%) and gas prices (43%), unemployment (37%) and inflation (36%) are impacting decisions, while one-third of business owners say the global economy and the 2012 election are impacting decisions.

When comparing this year to last, almost half of business owners (47%) say their business financials have improved (significantly or somewhat) compared to last year at this time.

Also, approximately 6 in 10 (58%) believe their business financials will improve in the next twelve months, and about half of the business owners (46%) say their sentiment regarding the economic outlook for 2013 is “cautious.”

The survey also found that the 79% of business owners who use a financial professional for business “believe they are making good progress toward achieving their long-term financial goals” compared with 62% of business owners who do not use a financial professional for their business.