Small-business owners continue to have a hard time accessing credit, and they expect the situation to worsen over the next 12 months, according to a survey released Friday by Wells Fargo (WFC) and Gallup.

The survey found that 32% of small-business owners surveyed this quarter said they had a "very difficult" or "somewhat difficult" time getting credit over the past 12 months, compared with 21% who had a "very easy" or "somewhat easy" time.

Looking ahead, 41% of the business owners said they expect to have a very difficult or somewhat difficult time accessing credit over the next year, while 24% reported that they expect the process to be very easy or somewhat easy.

Those findings were largely in line with the quarterly survey's results over the last few years, though the percentage of respondents who had a negative forward-looking outlook about their access to credit was higher than it had been since the fourth quarter of 2011.

The survey also asked small-business owners about their financial situation, jobs outlook, revenues, capital spending and cash flow for the next 12 months. For each of those indicators, the survey found more pessimism in the fourth quarter of this year than in the third quarter.

The survey did not ask respondents about the reasons for their answers, but a Wells Fargo executive attributed the more negative outlook to worries that Republicans and Democrats will not find a way to avert the tax increases and cuts in federal spending that are scheduled for the end of the year — known collectively as the fiscal cliff.

"Business owners who navigated through the Great Recession now face more uncharted territory created by ongoing uncertainty in Washington," Marc Bernstein, head of small business for Wells Fargo, said in a news release. "These owners know that potential federal government spending cuts and tax changes can create a ripple effect, hitting the pocketbooks of consumers and reducing spending that could hit small businesses hard."

The survey was based on interviews with 607 respondents whose businesses range up to $20 million in annual revenue. The poll, which relies on a different sample of business owners each quarter, carried a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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