Immediate Release
May 7, 2019
Press Contact: [email protected]

Poll: Americans Want Federal Paid Leave Policy But Worry About Abuse, Unfairness, and Displacing Existing Benefit Policies

Support for Earned Leave Highest Among Federal Paid Leave Proposals

Washington, DC — A new nationally-representative poll by Heart and Mind Strategies for Independent Women’s Forum of 2,010 Americans measuring attitudes toward federal paid leave policy and various proposals to expand access to paid time off from work following the birth or adoption of a child found broad, bipartisan desire for action (73 percent overall, including 60% of Conservatives or Republicans, with higher support among Independents (72%), Moderates (73%), Democrats (83%), and Liberals (87%)).

There is also common ground about the principles that should underlie any federal effort including:

  • Workers should have as much control and flexibility as possible over the benefits and money they have earned (78 percent overall, with higher support among Liberals (83%) and Moderates (79%)).

  • Paid leave policy should be budget neutral over the long term and shouldn’t increase the financial burden on those who choose not to have children and do not need the benefit (67 percent).

While there is general agreement on the benefits of paid leave across ideologies (time to bond with a new child (65%), adjust to new family situation (60%), and guarantee new parents can afford to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child (58%)), there is also consistency in what Americans see as the biggest problems with federal paid leave including potential abuse of the policy (49%), unfairness to those who do not plan to have children (38%), and discouraging businesses from providing their own benefits (34%).

When asked about specific federal proposals, Earned Leave–which gives new parents the option of accessing benefits they have already accrued through Social Security, in exchange for postponing eligibility for retirement benefits–received the highest levels of support with 50 percent overall and piquing the interest of those who generally do not support a federal paid leave policy (31%). Forty-five percent supported the FAMILY Act–the most well-known proposal for a new federal paid leave entitlement, with a new payroll tax and new, standardized benefits. For over half of Americans (54%), the perceived unfairness of requiring everyone to pay into the FAMILY Act regardless of intent to use it is its biggest drawback. While concern over Social Security’s finances is the biggest concern of Earned Leave.

“Americans want a paid leave approach that threads the needle — providing support for parents who need it, but without unfairly shifting costs to others, growing government, or discouraging employers from providing benefits on their own,” said IWF president Carrie Lukas.

Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agree it is important for Republicans and Democrats to compromise and find a solution for paid parental leave.

For detailed poll results and media inquiries please contact [email protected]. To learn more about IWF’s Earned Leave policy proposal, visit



Independent Women's Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities.