Billed as an agent of change, Barack Obama won his bid for the White House in convincing and dramatic fashion over John McCain on Nov. 4. But the Democratic president-elect has failed to win over the majority of commercial real estate professionals, including many who express concern that an Obama administration will negatively affect their business.
A survey of more than 400 subscribers to National Real Estate Investor shows that nearly six in 10 respondents (59%) are not at all pleased with the results of the U.S. presidential election compared with 37% who express some level of satisfaction [Figure 1].
The majority of NREI respondents (59%) indicate that an Obama victory in no way benefits their individual business, while 23% expect his victory to provide at least some benefit. Another 18% remain neutral [Figure 2].
Similarly, when it comes to business in general, 57% say that the election of the Democratic senator from Illinois will provide no benefit, while 26% say his election will provide some benefit.
While they may not like the results, most respondents had anticipated an Obama victory. Slightly more two-thirds of respondents (67%) indicate that they are not at all surprised by Obama's victory while 31% express some level of surprise [Figure 3].
More than half of respondents (54%) identify themselves as Republicans, followed by Independents (21%) and Democrats (14%).
Penton Research, which conducted the e-mail survey Nov. 5-7, posed the same questions to two sister Penton publications that are real estate-related: Retail Traffic and Lodging Hospitality magazines. Their views of Obama are much more favorable.
Specifically, 47% of 194 Retail Traffic readers surveyed are pleased the 47-year-old Obama will be heading to the White House compared with 47% who are displeased. Meanwhile, 55% of 379 Lodging Hospitality subscribers surveyed are pleased with the election outcome compared with 40% who are disappointed.
One plausible reason NREI respondents are so skeptical of an Obama administration is that 50% identify themselves as either an owner, president or CEO, compared with 37% for Retail Traffic and 21% for Lodging Hospitality. Minimizing the cost of doing business at all levels is a top priority of owners, and under an Obama administration many fear a climate of tax hikes and increased government regulation. Whether that comes to pass remains to be seen.
Among the issues of highest concern to NREI respondents are the availability of credit, the stability of the nation's financial institutions, and changes in the tax rate or tax structure [Figure 4]. Respondents believe that the impact of the new presidential leadership on the tax structure will be particularly negative [Figure 5].
Obama is in favor of raising the tax rate on dividend income and long-term capital gains from 15% to 20%. He also wants to raise income tax rates for high wage earners to levels previously in place under former President Bill Clinton. The top 33% and 35% income tax rates would rise to 36% and 39.6%.
The increase in the income tax rates would affect individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. Meanwhile, Obama also has proposed some tax credits aimed at lower-income families.
Several write-in comments from NREI respondents reflect deep concerns about tax policy in an Obama administration. “He will play Robin Hood. He will rob from the rich and give it to the poor because he favors socialism and campaigned on that platform,” wrote one respondent.
Another respondent wrote: “His policy on the economy and spreading the wealth is going to have a huge negative impact on how individual entrepreneurs do business. Less incentive to build wealth will lead to a third-world nation that has an underperforming economy.”
While NREI respondents strongly believe Obama will have a negative impact on the business climate, they are mixed in their views about whether his election to the nation's highest office is beneficial for the country: 45% say “yes,” 50% say “no,” and 5% are undecided.
One supporter believes that Obama will have a “huge impact on alternative energy development and reduction in dependence on foreign oil, critical to our energy independence and national security.”
Several write-in responses express confidence that Obama will upgrade the nation's infrastructure.