Large Majority Favors Paid Family and Medical Leave Proposed for Reconciliation Budget Plan

Six-in-ten voters support a proposed plan to federally fund up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave for all Americans, according to a new in-depth survey by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland.

The plan put forward in President Biden’s American Families Plan calls for the federal government to guarantee up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave per year for all workers and to cover the cost of two thirds of workers’ earnings during that period, up to a maximum of $4,000.

In the innovative survey of 2,613 registered voters, respondents were given a briefing on the amount of leave currently offered to American workers and presented the proposal, including that workers would have to submit to the government an application with a doctors’ note in order to request leave and that the cost is estimated to be $23 billion a year. They evaluated arguments for and against the proposals before making their final recommendation. The survey content was reviewed in advance by experts for accuracy and balance and to ensure the best arguments were being presented on both sides.

The survey found an overall majority of 59% in favor of the proposal for paid family and medical leave, including 82% of Democrats, 35% of Republicans, and 55% of independents.

Further analysis was conducted on the results by dividing the sample six ways, depending on Cook’s Political Report PVI ratings of the partisan orientation of the respondent’s Congressional district. A majority in very Republican (56%) as well as very Democratic (72%) districts favor the proposal.

“While in 1993 the federal government guaranteed that most workers have the right to take family and medical leave, there is now a majority calling for the government to ensure that this leave is paid as well,” commented PPC Director Steven Kull.

This proposal would substantially increase protections and paid leave coverage for many workers. Currently, four-in-ten workers do not have the legal right to take family or medical leave, meaning that they can be fired if they do so; while two-in-five workers are offered paid medical leave, and one-in-five are offered paid family leave.

Looking more closely at Republicans reveals some sharp demographic differences. While about one-third of Republicans favor the federal paid leave program, Republican support is higher among 18-34 year-olds (56%) and non-whites (50%). 

Respondents evaluated several pro and con arguments before making their final recommendation. All of the arguments were found convincing by over half of respondents. The strongest pro argument, found convincing by eight in ten, emphasized how everybody becomes ill at some point and thus a program is needed that allows workers to take time to recover without losing all their savings or going into debt. Nine in ten Democrats found this convincing, as did seven in ten Republicans.

The strongest con argument, found convincing by six in ten, asserted that it would be too easy for people to make fake claims to get leave, which would cost the government money and hurt businesses. Eight in ten Republicans found this convincing, but just four in ten Democrats did.

The survey was conducted online from July 29 – August 23, 2021 with a probability-based sample of 2,613 registered voters and had a margin of error of +/- 1.9%. The sample was provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its larger sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households.


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