Mitt Romney on Thursday continued to pound President Obama for a quote about entrepreneurs—“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that”—as a new Gallup poll found Obama is out of favor with nearly six in 10 business owners.
The Romney campaign on Thursday unveiled a new page on its website called “Built by Us,” which features video testimonies of business owners who say they resent Obama’s suggestion that they owe some of their success to government. The campaign is hoping more business owners will upload their own videos.
The Obama campaign has accused Romney’s team of taking the president’s words out of context.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Obama also said in Virginia July 13. “There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
“The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together,” Obama added.
The Gallup survey showed 59 percent of business owners disapprove of Obama’s job performance — the highest disapproval rating among the poll’s 11 occupational categories and 12 percentage points above the workforce average. Only 35 percent of business owners approve of the president’s performance.
Obama’s comment, the star sound bite of recent Romney attack ads, did not contribute to the president’s low marks. The poll was conducted in the second quarter, between April and June, and Obama made the remark at a campaign stop this month.
But the survey result is likely to bolster Romney’s argument that Obama’s comment was not merely a rhetorical stumble but rather a window into the president’s true attitude—and that business owners picked up on Obama’s attitude even before he said “you didn’t build that.”
“I know that there’s some people that think what the president said was just a gaffe,” Romney said last week at a truck company in Roxbury. “It wasn’t a gaffe. It was instead his ideology. The president does, in fact, believe that people who build enterprises like this really aren’t responsible for it, that in fact it’s a collective success of the whole society that somehow builds enterprises like this.”
On Tuesday, the president addressed Romney’s attack directly in a TV ad launched in six swing states.
“Those ads taking my words about small business out of context — they’re flat out wrong,” Obama says in the ad. “Of course Americans build their own businesses.”
But the president is increasingly unpopular among the people who build those businesses, the Gallup poll found. Obama’s second-quarter approval rating among business owners represented a 6-point drop from the first quarter, and “it is not yet clear whether those [“you didn’t build that”] comments have led to further deterioration in Obama’s standing among small business owners,” Gallup.com managing news editor Lymari Morales wrote in the survey summary.
“Although business owners represent just a small subset of the US population, they are of course a critical component of the economy and overall economic optimism in the country,” Morales wrote, adding that “further deterioration in his approval rating among business owners could certainly add to the perception that Obama is not doing enough to bolster small businesses in the country.”Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.