American consumers are worrying more about Amazon's power, a new CNBC survey finds

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Demonstrators in a Long Island City park in Queens, New York, protest the planned Amazon HQ2 office on Nov. 26, 2018.

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Once a year Amazon celebrates its customers — and itself — by holding a sale. It’s called Amazon Prime Day, and if you’re so inclined, you can often score low prices on everything from Amazon Kindles to rice cookers to paper towels.

According to the latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, one in five people (20%) shopped on Prime Day 2019, which was July 15–16. That’s less than half of the 44% of people who last November said they were planning to shop at a small business on another retail holiday: Small Business Saturday 2018. But to the extent that the “everything store” is directly taking on small business retailers by offering cheap prices and free delivery on everyday items, consumers are increasingly cognizant of Amazon’s growing dominance.

The CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey takes a quarterly pulse of attitudes among small business owners, while also checking in on sentiment toward small business among the general public. The third-quarter 2019 survey was conducted across approximately 10,000 Americans between July 29 and Aug. 4. For the first time since the survey began in 2017, a solid majority of the American public (59%) says Amazon is bad for small businesses — nearly three times the number who say Amazon is good for small businesses (22%).

This represents a significant shift from just two years ago, when opinion was nearly split between those saying Amazon is bad for small businesses (37%) and those saying it’s good (33%).

Results from the second quarter of 2018 fall squarely in the middle, with 47% of people saying Amazon is bad for small businesses and 28% saying it’s good for small businesses. This indicates a steady slide toward pessimism rather than a dramatic drop-off caused by one particular event. What’s driving this shift in public sentiment?

Amazon facing political headwinds

For one thing, the company has faced criticism from some prominent politicians — particularly President Donald Trump. Trump has used his Twitter account to attack the company for not paying enough taxes and taking advantage of the U.S. Postal Service, and he has often tweeted unfavorably about Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and CEO. Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which the president has derided as well, and though the two businesses are not linked in other ways, Trump frequently ties them together.

More recently, Amazon faced a public outcry after announcing that it would open a second headquarters location in New York City. This time it was the political left leading the opposition, worried that the company would change the character of the neighborhood and that new jobs would go disproportionately to high-skilled newcomers rather than those who were already living in the area.

For the record, Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say Amazon is bad for small businesses (64% and 62%, respectively), so the downward trend over the past two years holds across party lines.

Whether influenced by politics or not, the public’s changing attitudes may reflect a changing understanding of their role as consumers.

The public overall


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