An Overwhelming Majority of Americans Support Paid Parental Leave

Apr 15, 2016

An overwhelming majority of Americans support paid parental leave—no matter how you slice the demographics.

In a Fortune-Morning Consult poll, 74% of registered voters said they supported requiring employers to offer paid parental leave for new parents. As a wave of companies announce generous paid leave policies, pressure has been mounting for the United States to shed its status as the only industrialized country that doesn't guarantee new mothers paid leave by law.

In the poll, the majority of men and women, white-collar and blue-collar workers, and Democrats and Republicans—even Tea Party supporters—all supported mandating paid parental leave. 70% of male respondents and 78% of women said they were in favor of a mandate, and 83% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans supported it. Only less than a quarter of respondents who identified with the Tea Party opposed paid parental leave; 70% supported it.

Independent and Republican men were the least supportive of paid parental leave compared to other demographics, with 22% and 28% of those groups opposing the mandate, respectively. Still, a majority of both groups (64 and 67%) supported the measure.

Last week, New York and San Francisco made headlines for passing paid parental leave laws. New York became the fourth state to mandate some sort of paid parental leave—after California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—and promised to compensate parents for up to 12 weeks of leave. In San Francisco, the city agreed to require employers to give workers six weeks of fully paid leave. All states offer unpaid leave through the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which means that new parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without endangering their jobs—if they can afford it.

Only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid leave through their employers, forcing many parents to choose between spending time with their newborns and continuing to make a living. But in the past year, scores of high-profile companies have reformed their policies to give new parents a break. This week, EY and Wells Fargo both announced they would offer up to 16 fully paid weeks off for all new moms and dads, and Coca-Cola expanded its policy to offer six weeks of paid leave. Those announcements come in the wake of a paid leave revolution in the tech world, where Etsy, Netflix, Adobe, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, and others have all extended generous parental leave opportunities to employees.

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