A recent Gallup Poll showed that small business owners' optimism declined in July, with the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index dipping to 17, down from April's four-year high of 23.

A year ago, the index sat at zero, which means owners were neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the present and future small business operating environment.

The index reflects owners' opinions of their businesses' current situations and expectations for the next 12 months. It is measured in terms of financial situations, revenues, cash flow, number of jobs, capital spending and ease of obtaining credit. 

The quarterly survey was conducted July 9-13, with a random sample of 600 small business owners. Small business owner optimism has improved since its low point of -28 in July 2010, but remains below pre-recession levels that were generally in the triple digits.