It’s been a great run for Wall Street, but Main Street is feeling left out

Small Business

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Between rising costs for groceries and fuel, increased debt levels, and shrinking savings, people are having trouble seeing the overall economic growth reflected in their bank accounts. Our recent research with CNBC showed that the “vibecession” has a hold over many people, and now those sentiments appear to resonate with small business owners as well.

The latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey for Q2 2024 shows that small business owners are feeling little impact from stock market highs and are worried they will be left behind by policymakers who are more concerned with what happens on Wall Street than on Main Street. 

Inflation has been a top concern for small business owners since the onset of the pandemic. In Q1 2024, small business owners showed cautious signs of optimism over inflation finally letting up. Confidence in the Federal Reserve’s ability to control inflation was at a two-year high, of 35%. But with recent government inflation data showing prices rising again more than expected, small business confidence in the Fed has returned to the previous lows from our quarterly surveying in 2023, at 31%. 

The 2024 stock market rally has been plenty good for investors, who benefited from gains in chip stocks like Nvidia, which briefly surpassed a $2 trillion valuation, and AMD, which was valued at over $300 billion for the first time. Even the IPO market slowdown of recent years began to pick up, with Reddit’s successful IPO and Rubrik’s offering both signs of growing optimism. But our research finds that small business owners weren’t among those in on the recent market windfalls.

The majority of small business owners surveyed (64%) say they’ve experienced no benefits from this year’s stock market performance. In fact, few believe that Wall Street has had a positive (17%) or negative (15%) impact on their business. It isn’t that Wall Street harms small businesses. It simply isn’t a presence in their day-to-day lives. 

This CNBC/SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted April 8-12, 2024 among a national sample of 2,130 self-identified small business owners ages 18 and up.

Where Democrat and Republican small business owners agree

Overall, small businesses express little confidence in current business policies and policy-making. Almost three-quarters (73%) believe these policies favor large companies, not small businesses. Small business owners of both political affiliations largely agree on this point: 79% of Republican and 71% of Democrat and independent small business owners agree that business policies favor large companies over small businesses. 

When it comes to business policy-making, most small business owners (86%) agree that they have little say in this. Again, this sentiment is shared across party lines: 91% of Republican business owners are concerned about having no voice in business policy-making, as are 82% of Democrats and 88% of independents. This is even though 99% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses.

In today’s politically polarized environment, having small business owners of opposing parties agree on much of anything is rare. In our study, Republican and Democrat small business owners agreed on very little. For example, 64% of Democrat small business owners claim the economy is “good or excellent,” whereas 60% of Republican small business owners say it is doing “poor.” 

To have these polarized groups express the same concerns underscores the seriousness of the issue. Having a lack of voice in policy-making is not just a partisan concern. Small business owners are the bedrock of the economy. Understanding their priorities and concerns is crucial for policymakers and leaders to make well-informed, data-driven decisions that meet the needs of their constituents. 

Full results from the from the Q2 CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey

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