Independent financial advisors are strong supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in his presidential bid, a new survey has found.
The poll, conducted by the Financial Services Institute (FSI), found that 81% of advisors said they back Romney, though they are more evenly split in their prediction of which candidate will win.
Of the 2,348 advisors polled, 53% said they believe Romney will win, with the remaining 47% looking ahead to a second term for President Obama.
By a substantial margin, the economy and jobs are the main area of concern weighing on advisors' minds, with 63% of respondents saying those issues will be their primary consideration when they cast their ballot this fall. The national debt rated a distant second as a concern, with 21% advisors ranking that issue as their chief voting priority. Single-digit percentages of the respondents identified foreign affairs, health care or national defense as their greatest concern.
A majority of the advisors polled expect equities to perform neutrally and look ahead to a flat economy for the remainder of the year. Almost all of the respondents anticipate an increase in capital gains tax rates.
"Independent financial advisors have a unique viewpoint of the intersection of politics and the economy," FSI President and CEO Dale Brown said in a statement.
"This poll shows the economy and taxes are weighing heavily on the minds of advisors and in the planning they do for their clients," Brown said. "They are bracing themselves and their clients for a stagnant economy and an increase in capital gains taxes."
The 95% of advisors who expect an increase in capital gain rates are looking ahead to the looming sunset of the Bush-era tax cuts, which will expire at the end of year unless Congress and the White House can reach an agreement to renew them. Obama has called for the renewal of the tax cuts for all but the top-earning taxpayers, while Republicans have argued that the current rates should be extended for all Americans. Given the pitched rhetoric both sides have used to defend their positions in an election year, the advisors that the FSI polled don't hold out much hope that a consensus can be reached.
"The advisors see the pending, end-of-year Bush-era tax relief ending, and are not optimistic about Congress and the White House finding a solution," FSI spokesman Chris Paulitz wrote in an email.
The FSI also asked about a proposal advanced by the Department of Labor that would expand the definition of "fiduciary" to cover financial professionals providing advice to retirement plans.
An overwhelming majority, 89% of advisors polled, said that they oppose that effort, which the FSI has been lobbying vigorously to defeat.
Additionally, nearly three-quarters of the advisors said that their business model entails a shift toward fees and away from commissions.
The survey respondents are also predicting, by a 70% to 30% margin, that Republicans will take control of the Senate in the November election. Democrats currently hold 53 seats, to Republicans' 47. Twenty-three of the 33 seats in play this November are currently held by Democrats, and of those, seven contests are considered toss-ups, according to a recent analysis by the Cook Political Report. Just three of the Senate seats currently held by the GOP could go to either party, the analysis found.
Asked about the respondents' tilt toward Romney, Paulitz said that the survey speaks more to advisors' concerns and convictions about the appropriate regulatory climate for their business than a partisanship among the cohort.
"What you see is a group of incredibly politically astute people who make their decisions based on what is best for their clients and for their businesses," Paulitz said. "I think it's less about party affiliation and more about supporting individuals who they believe will help their clients earn more and save more for retirement, and who will help their businesses thrive in a healthier regulatory environment."
Kenneth Corbin writes for Financial Planning.
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