Despite Leadership Concerns, Trump Still Seen As Most Positive Candidate for Business In CEO Poll

CEOs say he is hardly their candidate of choice—but rather the candidate who would be least detrimental to their business.

Trump trade tactics play well with manufacturing CEOsDespite deep antipathy towards his leadership style and concern about the growing impact on the economy of his trade disputes, an October poll of U.S. CEOs found that President Trump remains far and away their best hope for business growth among current candidates, with Democrats trailing far behind.

When asked which of the current candidates for president would have the “most positive impact on your business” if elected, President Trump was the top pick of 70 percent of those polled, despite many CEOs saying he is hardly their candidate of choice—but rather the candidate who would be least detrimental to their business. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second in the poll of 296 CEOs, with 19 percent. No Democrat aside from Biden registered more than single-digit support.

“It’s not even a close call. Between Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris, there is not even a scintilla of evidence that there would be any positive impact,” says the president of an industrial manufacturing company. “Biden would be the least damaging of the remaining group. But Trump’s economic success completely dwarfs what meager growth the Obama/Biden Whitehouse was able to muster.”

Bad Choices All Around

One thing many CEOs we polled agree on: When it comes to the current candidates, “There is not a great choice for business among them,” says the president of an industrial manufacturing company who sees trade disputes, a European slowdown and political dysfunction as the main obstacles to a positive business climate in the year ahead.

“Trump managed to push through a number of pro-business changes, but they have now been dwarfed by trade disputes and lack of clear direction on policy,” he says. “It will be a detriment if he is re-elected. The democratic slate of candidates is likely to re-establish regulations which hamper business and introduce tax policy which will thwart investment. Of the list, Biden is the least impactful.”

The chairman of a global industrial manufacturer agreed. “In reality none of the above will really help business in near term. It will take years to unwind from where we are.” He selected Joe Biden in the poll.

“While Trump is the choice for the most positive impact from an economic policy perspective, I am hopeful he will not be re-elected. I am willing to sacrifice a little economic prosperity to see him out of office,” says the CEO and president of an international media company.

“Neither party has a pro-business policy,” says the owner and managing partner of a global professional services firm. “We need a Michael Bloomberg, Steve Forbes, Mitt Romney.”

Breakdown By Industry

Health Care, Industrial Manufacturing and Financial Services CEOs ranked Trump the highest for the economic policies that would be most helpful to their business. Transportation CEOs were the most divided between Trump and Biden, at 57 percent vs. 43 percent, respectively.