Most Americans Support Paid Family and Medical Leave, But Split on Specifics

Here’s the good news for proponents of paid family and medical leave: Most Americans support it.

Now here’s the bad news: Most Americans are split over how to make it happen, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that dug into how the country as a whole views paid family and medical leave.

With both sides of the political spectrum now seriously looking at paid leave — from Ivanka Trump’s efforts that began with her speech last year at the Republican National Convention to Democrats’ efforts to steer the conversation toward more government-helmed plans — it’s clear the topic is stirring interest.

But there is still skepticism that the parties can come together to get anything accomplished, as the Pew survey shows.

the most popular with 85 percent support was paid leave for a worker to deal with his or her own serious medical condition.

Pew noted that of the different types of paid leave that could be offered, the most popular with 85 percent support was paid leave for a worker to deal with his or her own serious medical condition. Paid leave for mothers following the birth or adoption of a child was the second most popular, with 82 percent support.

Paid leave for fathers after a recent birth or adoption came in with 69 percent support, while paid leave for workers to care for a family member with a serious medical condition came in last with 67 percent support.

Regardless of the proposal, the public broadly supports paid leave.

Also clear is that most respondents believe employers, and not the government, should pay for it.

most respondents believe employers, and not the government, should pay for it.

Let’s break down just one aspect of the survey: 85 percent support for paid leave for a worker who is dealing with his or her own serious medical condition. Of that group, 62 percent of respondents favored employer-paid leave, while 24 percent wanted either the federal or state government to pay for it.

These results were found to be relatively stable even when controlling for political affiliation, as both Democrats and Republican tend to favor employer-paid models.

But when the survey got into specifics, things began to fall apart.

For instance: should the government mandate employers to provide paid leave? The population is split basically 50-50 on that, Pew found. And that split is far more noticeable along partisan lines, as about 70 percent of Democrats favor a mandate while only 33 percent of Republicans do.

For instance: should the government mandate employers to provide paid leave? The population is split basically 50-50 on that.

Other questions persist, too. Should paid leave come from tax increases, employer tax credits, payroll contributions from employers and employees, or something else entirely? The tax credit plan remains the most popular across party lines, Pew found, with about 45 percent of respondents in strong support and another 42 percent “somewhat open” to the idea.

Ultimately, the problem with paid leave is that it lacks the immediate gut-punch importance of other, more prominent issues. As Kim Parker of Pew noted during a recent address at the American Enterprise Institute, most people don’t really care all that much about paid leave.

“And that was interesting to us, because even though paid leave has become such a prominent topic, when we put out a general poll about the issues people care most about, paid leave came in last place out of 21 other issues,” Parker said. “Yes, people support expanding access to paid family leave, but it doesn’t compete with the economy, jobs, health care, education and so forth.”

Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.