The SmartCompany Election 2007 poll has revealed a strong swing by small and medium business owners. We uncover what SMEs care about, and who are they going to vote for. By AMANDA GOME.
By Amanda Gome
There has been a strong swing away from Labor to the Coalition by small and medium business owners in the last three months, as revealed in an exclusive SmartCompany poll released today.
There has also been a huge jump in the number of business owners who say they are less likely to hire and fire under Labor due to its unfair dismissal policies, suggesting that employment growth will slow under Labor.
Climate change, water and the environment have been revealed as the biggest concerns of business owners that have not been adequately addressed by both parties in the election campaign, suggesting that the environment is now a highly significant issue for business owners.
In August this year, a Roy Morgan and SmartCompany poll of 375 small and medium sized business owners found the majority (51%) intended to vote for the Coalition and only 35% intended to vote for Labor. Some pundits were surprised Coalition support was not higher. Small and medium business owners have long been described as the Coalition’s heartland.
But the latest SmartCompany poll, taken between Friday and last night of 445 SME owners, shows a swing to the Coalition. About 60% say they will now be voting for the Coalition, a nine percentage point increase in just three months.
Most of the Coalition’s gain has been Labor’s loss, with only 29% saying they will now vote for Kevin Rudd’s team, down from 35% three months ago.
The results suggest that some of the Coalition’s scare campaign focusing on unions and workplace relations and unfair dismissal have had an impact in swinging business owners away from Labor.
About 15% say they have changed their minds since the political parties started campaigning this year, and 7% are still undecided.
Labor’s IR policy, which will abolish the unfair dismissal exemption for small business, is now a big concern for business owners, with 57.5% saying they will be more reluctant to hire, up from 33% just three months ago.
Business owners have also become more concerned about firing under Labor, with 45% saying they will be more reluctant to sack staff under Labor, an increase from 23% three months ago.
However, in good news for Labor, its education revolution has made some cut through. The poll shows that 28% believe that if Labor wins it will be easier to find skilled workers given Labors proposed revolution and skills development policies.
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One interesting finding is that while 70% of business owners believe the Coalition is better for business, a smaller portion (60%) say they will vote for the Coalition. Some business owners do not always vote on business interests.
This was reinforced when business owners were asked for the key issues they felt had not been addressed in this campaign. Health rated as the fifth biggest issue of concern, after climate change/environment, SMEs, tax and industrial relations.
Business owners remain concerned about interest rates. While 33% say they feel let down by the Coalition for its failed promise to keep interest rates lower, only 5.8% say they are more worried about interest rates under a Coalition government with 59% more worried under a Labor government.
However when it comes to the environment, 38% say they worry more under a Coalition government while only 13.7% say they will worry more under a Labor government.