CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey

This is why entrepreneurs really don't care what Trump does on trade and immigration

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on September 28, 2015, in New York City.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on September 28, 2015, in New York City.

Two years ago Donald J. Trump descended an escalator in Trump Tower, delivered a speech focused on winning trade deals and keeping immigrants out of the United States, and announced his candidacy for president.

The themes he talked about that day came to dominate his campaign messaging. "Build that wall" became a constant refrain among Trump supporters at rallies and on Twitter. In the first presidential debate, Trump proclaimed NAFTA to be "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country."

The other policy proposals floated throughout the campaign — like those on tax reform — did not generate the same enthusiasm among Trump's supporters. Perhaps because of that, immigration became a top priority early in his presidency to satisfy his voters.

But the Trump administration has recently pivoted to focus on some of the less-prominent campaign promises. In a pair of tweets on June 16, the president called out

The president cited it as evidence that

There's certainly evidence for that high business enthusiasm. Small-business owners are some of Trump's stronger supporters: 58 percent of them approve of the job Trump is doing as president. Their optimism is likely related to Trump's refocused agenda rather than his initial priorities. Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) name either taxes or regulation as the most critical issue facing their businesses. Concerns about these two issues greatly outweigh concerns about the costs of labor and capital.

Small-business owners are optimistic the changes planned by the Trump administration will benefit them. The first CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, the source of these data, showed that small-business owners are not positive about their prospects for the next year but that some factors engender more optimism than others.

Just under a quarter (24 percent) of all small-business owners expect that tax-policy changes will have a negative effect on their businesses in the coming year, but almost twice that number (42 percent) expect tax-policy changes to have a positive effect. An additional 33 percent expect it to have no effect.

Similarly, 38 percent expect changes in government regulations to have a positive effect on their business in the next year, and only 26 percent expect it to have a negative effect (34 percent expect it to have no effect).

More from the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey:
GOP plan to replace Obamacare loses support among business owners
A hiring boom from bullish American employers isn't coming
Small-business owners are very confident about economy

Despite all the campaign talk of better trade deals and stemming the tide of immigration, these messages don't resonate with small-business owners. About the same percentage of small-business owners say changes in trade policy will have a positive impact on their business as those who believe it will have a negative impact (27 percent and 22 percent, respectively), but a full 50 percent believe it will have no effect at all.

Similarly, more than half (55 percent) of small-business owners expect changes in immigration policy to have no effect on their businesses, with 24 percent expecting it to have a positive effect and 21 percent expecting it to have a negative effect.

These findings show a perception running counter to Trump's assertion that better trade deals with other countries — or cutting back on immigration — will help protect and promote American businesses. Small-business owners don't expect much of anything — positive or negative — to come their way due to changes in immigration or trade policy; tax reform and regulatory changes are more significant drivers of their optimism.

Small-business owners employ 48 percent of all workers in the United States and often play essential roles in their local communities. They run the restaurants, grocery stores and bookstores that help define neighborhoods. If the president can follow through on their expectations, maybe we'll all be a little more optimistic a year from now.

By Jon Cohen, chief research officer; and Laura Wronski, survey research associate, at SurveyMonkey