Where big corporations agree with Democrats on progressive policy

Key Points
  • Major U.S. corporations support some progressive policy ideas from Democratic candidates for president, including paid maternity leave and child-care financial support.
  • Medicare for all and an increase in the minimum wage are much less popular with employers.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), one of several Democrats running for the party's nomination in the 2020 presidential race, has outlined details progressive policy ideas on workplace issues including government financial support to working parents to cover child-care costs.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Democratic candidates for president may have some common ground with America's largest corporations as they propose some progressive and family-oriented policies on the campaign trail.

In the latest CNBC Global CFO Council poll, U.S. CFOs were asked to choose which of a number of progressive policy proposals would have the most positive and most negative impact on their businesses. The poll found the most support for family-friendly policies like increased funding for child care and mandatory paid maternity leave. Medicare for all and universal basic-income proposals were seen as most likely to have a negative impact on the large corporations the CFO council members represent.

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing nearly $5 trillion in market value across a wide variety of sectors. The second-quarter 2019 survey was conducted from April 23-30, 2019, among 45 members of the council. The question about progressive policies was asked only to the 20 U.S.-based CFOs who completed the survey.

Among U.S. CFOs, 25% said increased government funding for child care would have the "most positive" impact on their businesses if it became law, while 20% say "mandatory paid maternity leave." On the downside, 40% said "Medicare for all" would have the most negative impact on their businesses, while 25% said universal basic income would.

Maternity leave and child care also have wide support among the general U.S. population. Last quarter's CNBC All-America Economic Survey found 84% of Americans support a federal requirement that employers provide paid maternity leave to new mothers, while 75% support increasing federal funding for child care.

The CFO Council poll results are a further indication of a movement toward corporations offering more family-friendly benefits, perhaps in response to overwhelming demand from their employees. An annual survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 35% of all employers surveyed (and 60% of those with more than 10,000 employees) offered paid maternity leave in 2018, a number that has more than doubled since 2014.

As a political issue, maternity leave could be the one that comes off the table by the 2020 election. The Trump administration, and specifically the president's daughter and top adviser, Ivanka Trump, has said it supports national paid family leave, while proposals from both sides of the aisle in Congress have made it through various stages of the legislative process.

Medicare for all and universal basic income are far more likely to be the battleground for the election, and the CFO Council poll finds there may even be some limited support for these policies in some corners of the business community. While CFOs were most likely to say those two issues would have the most negative impact, one CFO did say Medicare for all would have the most positive impact on his/her company, and two CFOs said universal basic income would have the most positive impact on theirs.

(Note: The CNBC Global CFO Council Survey for the second quarter was conducted from April 23–30, 2019. Forty-five of the 124 global members responded to the survey (20 North America, 15 EMEA and 10 APAC).

Full Q2 survey results below:

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