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The 115th U.S. Congress

Entrepreneurs say it’s a great big economy

Get past easy headlines and political angling to see what entrepreneurs are really telling legislators.

Fresh off the 2018 midterm election, the Kauffman Foundation surveyed more than 1,000 entrepreneurs across the country, to get their take on the current state of the economy. More than half of survey respondents say the country is headed in the right direction.

It might be tempting to leave it with the easy headline, especially as not surprisingly, the result trends higher than the general U.S. population’s sentiment to the same question, which Gallup reported as 35 percent in November. But, the poll becomes more telling as results are broken out by demographic, and questions become more specific.

Female and black entrepreneurs aren’t as enthusiastic about the direction of the country, 48 percent and 50 percent respectively. Generally, female, black and Latinx entrepreneurs – all groups that are becoming more and more likely to open businesses – are less likely to express positive opinions of the national economy or the current economic climate.

However, what did unite the sample overall was the lack of optimism in response to more specific questions about whether the Trump administration and Congress have done a good job for small businesses. Positive sentiment for Donald Trump in that regard only mustered 59 percent overall and 50 percent overall for Congress. Whereas, 84 percent of entrepreneurs believe Trump has done a good job for large business and corporations, 77 percent for Congress. It’s clear entrepreneurs believe those in Washington do more for large business and corporations than for business owners like them.

This disillusionment may be evident in the strong majority of entrepreneurs (75 percent overall, including 71 percent of female entrepreneurs) who reported that they are satisfied with the outcome of the 2018 midterm election. Yet, only a slim majority (57 percent overall, 53 percent of female entrepreneurs) believe the newly-elected Congress will represent their business interest well. The vast majority of entrepreneurs (84%) don’t believe they are represented “very well” by Congress.

Victor Hwang, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation believes it’s clear entrepreneurs and small business owners are looking for more from their leaders in Washington. “Instead of focusing mainly on big businesses, we need to empower individuals and give them the resources they need to spur innovation and start companies, which will in turn create more jobs and strengthen our economy.”

The reality is, there’s a connection between the long-term decline in entrepreneurship and the effect on productivity and growth – fewer startups mean a lower quality of life for Americans. We need to contribute to a new economic model that focuses less on Amazon and more on the startup that could be the next Amazon; an inclusive economic model that infuses entrepreneurship into the economy and removes barriers to starting and growing businesses.


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