Politics

A majority of Americans favor Puerto Rican statehood, but many Republicans oppose it

Thousands demand resignation of Puerto Rico governor after private chats leaked

Thousands of protesters choked the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 15, to demand the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. The protests were incited by leaked chat logs including the governor.
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Thousands of protesters choked the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 15, to demand the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. The protests were incited by leaked chat logs including the governor.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s leaked chats may have led to calls for his ouster and inspired mass protests in San Juan in recent days, but his signature issue remains popular despite recent bashing from prominent conservatives like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A new nationwide Gallup poll released Thursday shows that 66 percent of Americans favor admitting Puerto Rico as a U.S. state. The poll, which was conducted in June before the leaked private messages and FBI indictments against Puerto Rican government officials, shows that young adults and Democrats favor statehood at the highest rate, while a plurality of Republicans, 48 percent to 45 percent, oppose statehood.

The survey’s overall results are consistent with previous Gallup polling on Puerto Rico statehood dating back to 1962, with support for statehood fluctuating between 59 and 65 percent.

About 27 percent of respondents oppose statehood for Puerto Rico, and 7 percent said they had no opinion. The survey was conducted from June 19-30 with 1,018 respondents nationwide via cellphone and landline. The margin of error was four percentage points.

Puerto Rico statehood has more support than statehood for Washington, D.C., statehood — which was another question Gallup asked in June, amid increasing calls by some Democrats to admit the nation’s capital as the 51st state. Americans opposed admitting Washington as a state by a 2-to-1 margin.

Puerto Ricans and Washingtonians do not have voting representatives in Congress. Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. territory cannot vote in general presidential elections and do not pay federal income tax. They can vote and they pay federal taxes if they move to the U.S. mainland.

Florida politicians from both parties have long supported Puerto Rican statehood, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Rep. Darren Soto, D- Kissimmee, also introduced a Puerto Rican statehood bill in Congress earlier this year. Soto is Florida’s first Puerto Rican member of Congress and represents the state’s largest Puerto Rican community, which is in Central Florida.

But President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they don’t support statehood. Trump said in a 2018 interview that he was an “absolute no” on statehood as long as Trump critics like San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz remain in office. McConnell said in a Fox News interview last month that making Puerto Rico a state was a part of Democrats’ “socialist agenda” that would lead to two more Democratic senators in Washington.

“It’s absolutely absurd to call making Puerto Rico a state socialism when by very definition that is democracy,” Soto said in response to McConnell’s comments.

A 2017 referendum held in Puerto Rico showed 97 percent support for statehood, but the turnout rate was only 23 percent after statehood opponents boycotted the vote.

Support for statehood is not universally shared by leaders in the territory. Resident commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez is a Republican who supports statehood, while Rosselló is a pro-statehood Democrat. Yulin Cruz, also a Democrat, does not support statehood.

In the Gallup poll, Democrats generally favored statehood — 83 percent of them — along with 80 percent of adults between 18 to 29, and 74 percent of non-whites.

Puerto Rican statehood has also become more partisan since Gallup last polled the issue in 1991. At the time, an equal amount of Republicans and Democrats — 61 percent — supported statehood, as compared to 83 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans in 2019.

Gallup noted that the governor’s push for statehood could be jeopardized by the recent scandals within his administration, though their polling was conducted before the FBI indictments and offensive chat messages were released last week. They also noted that a statehood push could subside if Yulin Cruz wins the gubernatorial election in 2020 after announcing her candidacy in March.

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