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Most businesses expect US election outcome to impact operations - 451 survey

Most businesses expect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election to drive changes to their operating conditions, particularly regarding compliance and regulatory policies and pandemic-driven health and safety requirements, according to a new survey by 451 Research, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Nearly 65% of survey respondents said their organizations could face changes based on the outcome of the Nov. 3 election between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, according to 451's "Voice of the Enterprise: Digital Pulse, Coronavirus Flash Survey, October 2020." More than 34% of survey respondents said they expect changes regarding compliance and regulatory concerns, in areas including data privacy, emissions restrictions and employment law, said Liam Eagle, research vice president for 451 and lead analyst on the survey report.

Nearly 33% expect changes concerning capital markets, including how the government will approach interest rates and fiscal policy. In comparison, 32.4% expect changes related to the management and regulation of requirements relating to COVID-19. Biden and vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris have proposed a plan to combat COVID-19 that includes implementing mask mandates nationwide, for example, which could influence local business decisions.

The survey, conducted Sept. 24-Oct. 9, is based on about 400 responses from IT end-user decision-makers primarily in the U.S., but also from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Canada.

The survey respondents did not indicate how severe the changes might be or which candidates respondents preferred. But the findings indicate that most businesses believe there could be policy shifts following the election, given the candidates' different approaches on topics such as immigration policy and healthcare as well as the country's pandemic response.

"Whoever wins the election is likely to make some significant choices that would be very different from the choices that their counterpart would make," Eagle said in an interview.

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Eagle noted that larger organizations with more than 1,000 employees are more likely to expect an impact because they are more likely to be involved in decisions subject to regulation, more reliant on access to capital, and "more likely to deal with whatever policies are being handed down with regard to COVID."

Trade winds

Businesses also expect a potential shift in trade and immigration policy. Nearly 27% of survey respondents believe they will face international trade policy changes, while 18.6% expect changes regarding the availability of work visas or other foreign worker support.

Biden and Harris indicated they would support pro-immigration policies, including new worker visas for employment-based immigration and citizenship rights for 11 million undocumented immigrants. That contrasts with Trump's approach to pull back on the number of visas issued to foreign workers and restrict legal immigration. Amazon.com Inc. and other Big Tech companies rely on the H-1B visa program to recruit specialized workers.

The two candidates are also bound to take different approaches to the capital markets, especially in a recession, Eagle said. "I think the idea that you're choosing between two groups that are by design polar opposites in a lot of ways, probably suggests that markets could go one way or the other depending on the outcome," he said.

Additional findings from the survey can be found here.