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February 4 2020

Two Truths and A Lie: Public Opinion on Paid Leave

by Carrie L. Lukas

In the last few years, there has been much public discussion on how Americans want the government to do more to help workers who lack sufficient paid time off from work.  But how much do you know about people’s real preferences about the government taking action to increase access to paid time off?    

Let’s play “Two Truths and a Lie” and find out!  Can you identify which of the following statements is not true? 

 

A.  Most Americans, including both Republicans and Democrats, want workers to be able to take time off from work when they need it, such as when welcoming a new baby to the family. 

B.   Americans prefer paid-leave solutions that are voluntary, require tradeoffs, and are fair to all taxpayers and workers, rather than a federal entitlement program that would require a new payroll tax on everyone.

C.   Survey respondents’ views of the various approaches to paid leave differed greatly by party. 

 

Let’s take these one at a time.

First, A:  TRUE!  A recent McLaughlin survey of 1000 Americans asked, “do you think we need a plan that makes it affordable for all working parents to take time off after the birth or adoption of a baby?”   Eighty-one percent of Democrats answered yes; so did 72 percent of Republicans.

B is also TRUE.  The same McLaughlin survey described three different approaches to expanding access to paid parental leave.  The first was to create a traditional new entitlement program, funded with a payroll tax that would provide replacement to pay workers taking time off to welcome a child.

McLaughlin also asked about two budget neutral, voluntary proposals: Giving workers the option to receive an advance on their own future child tax credits at the time of a birth or adoption.  That advance would effectively be paid back by a reduction in future tax credits. And, finally, the approach first introduced by Independent Women’s Forum, known as Earned Leave, which would give workers the option to access a share of their Social Security benefits following a birth or adoption, in return for a small delay in eligibility for Social Security’s retirement benefits. 

When asked about each plan individually, support for each approach was similar -- around half of respondents were likely to support the approach, while a third were unlikely to support it.  But when asked about which of the three approaches they support most, Americans’ preference was clear: Just 16 percent supported the traditional government entitlement approach, while the two budget neutral approaches each received twice as much support--the Social Security Earned Leave approach was supported by 32 percent, and the tax credit approach received 30 percent.  Together, those budget neutral, voluntary approaches received a decisive majority.

Finally, C is FALSE. Republican and Democratic responses were nearly identical in the McLaughlin survey:  18 percent of both Republicans and Democrats preferred the government entitlement, 29 percent the tax credit, and 33 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats preferred the Social Security Earned Leave approach.  Interestingly, Independents differed in one important way: They were far less likely to support the government entitlement, with just nine percent responding positively to that approach.

 

Thanks for playing IWF’s two truths and a lie! For more about paid leave, visit our information center here.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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