CEOs Want Economic Stimulus Program from Biden Administration, Finds Latest Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
The next presidential administration should make a new COVID-19 stimulus package one of its top priorities, according to the latest CEO survey from Marcum LLP and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business.
More than two thirds (67.6%) of CEOs saw the passage of a new federal COVID-19 stimulus package as one of the three most important government policy initiatives for a Biden Administration, with nearly half (45.6%) selecting it as the top initiative.
Four out of five middle-market CEOs see COVID-19 as a continuing factor in their operations, and more than half say it will continue to be an issue for American businesses over the next year.
Overall economic outlook, which has been in steady decline in previous Marcum-Hofstra surveys, continued to slide in this latest poll.
The Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey of 250 company leaders nationwide sought to uncover attitudes about economic priorities for 2021 and beyond, gauge current business outlook, and uncover key business planning influences. It was the fourth installment in the Marcum-Hofstra 2020 series.
Government Economic Priorities
In addition to COVID-19 stimulus packages, assistance programs targeting small and medium-sized businesses in the form of expanded access to capital (47.6%) and supportive federal procurement policies (46.4%) rounded out the top three government priorities identified by CEOs.
More than one third of CEOs indicated policies promoting U.S.-based manufacturing (36.8%) and government investment in infrastructure (36.4%) among their top three priorities.
Immigration reform and improved trade relations with China ranked lowest among CEO priorities, with 22.0% and 19.6% of responses, respectively.
82.4% of CEOs are currently taking precautions for the possibility of another COVID lockdown and 64% say that a lockdown will affect the way they operate. 58.4% said COVID would continue to be an issue for American businesses over the coming year.
A decline in optimism of CEOs across industry sectors accelerated as the COVID-19 pandemic continued and current economic stimulus programs wound down.
Less than one percent of CEOs rated their outlook for the coming year as very positive (“10” on a 1-10 scale), a significant decline from prior surveys. 4.2% of CEOs selected the highest rating in the summer 2020 survey and 13.3% did in the spring 2020 survey.
The current survey found 5.0% of CEOs rated their outlook as “8” or higher. This is a decline from 10.7% previously.
Slightly more than a third of CEOs (34.8%) selected a rating in the positive range of “5” or higher, down from 43.6%.
The weighted average response of 4.23 compares to 7.72 in the first survey of 2020.
A majority of CEOs (55.6%) anticipate their business being positively impacted by the proposed economic policies of a Biden Administration. 12.8% said Biden’s policies will have no significant impact on their businesses, 21.2% said the policies would have a negative impact, and 10.4% didn’t know or were unsure.
Key Influences for Business Planning
Economic concerns far outweighed other key influences for business planning in the next 12 months, with 30% of CEOs saying these were their greatest influence and two thirds ranking it one of their top three influences. Following economic concerns, technology (39%), availability of talent (35%) and access to capital (32%) were most cited as one of the top three influences on business planning over the next 12 months.
CEOs were nearly evenly split on whether partisanship in the U.S. has affected their businesses, with 46.0% saying it has and 46.4% saying it has not. Among the comments in response to this question, representative answers included these:
“By not having a national mask mandate, we are having extreme difficulty in obtaining qualified production personnel.”
“By not passing another stimulus package, the access to credit has all but dried up & retaining workers has become much more difficult.”
“Congress cannot agree on a stimulus and that has businesses worried. Also tightens budgets and work opportunities going forward.”
“Difficulty predicting legislative or regulatory action or inaction, leading to more conservative plans for expansion and business growth.”
“It has divided the company into distinct, opposing groups.”
“It hinders the expansion of business.”
“Local, state and national government directives are partisan. This leads to confusion and non-compliance. Example: the pandemic response had no national level orders and our state and counties issued conflicting directives.”
“Made everyone more tense.”
“Negativity towards government workers makes it hard to get our jobs done.”
“Not able to take a firm decision on new product ideas.”
“There are many tensions in our nation currently and they do make their way to the workplace. People become less productive.”
“We have lost clients due to arguments over the election.”
“With COVID and the disastrous inability of Democrats and Republicans to do their jobs together, I hold out little hope for my business or for the country I have known for 79 years.”
Marcum Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey M. Weiner said: “Middle-market CEOs are clear about their need for additional economic relief to withstand the impact of COVID. They have deep concerns about the immediate future, and optimism has continued to trend downward. The resilience of mid-market companies—the backbone of our economy—is being tested, and time will tell whether the next administration is able to help right the course for U.S. businesses.”
The Marcum-Hofstra poll launched in May 2019 and is being conducted as part of the Zarb School of Business MBA curriculum. The survey polls mid-market CEOs on a range of issues, including economic outlook, growth and investment plans, and specific policy and news developments.
This survey was developed and analyzed by a class of Hofstra MBA students led by Dr. Andrew Forman, associate professor of marketing and international business, in partnership with Marcum.
“Our partnership with Marcum continues to be an extraordinary opportunity for our students to develop an in-depth understanding of how CEOs navigate change,” said Zarb School Dean Janet Lenaghan. “In these unprecedented times, the perspective this work provides our students is all the more valuable.”
Said Dr. Forman: “Participation in the development and analysis of the CEO Survey provides Zarb School Business students with an appreciation of the impact of rapidly changing world events on the setting of business priorities.”
For the complete Marcum LLP-Hofstra University CEO Survey and an archive of prior surveys, visit https://www.