When asked whether the economy is getting better, respondents in a new Gallup survey in North America, South America, and the Caribbean were fairly optimistic overall. The majority in the U.S. and in Latin America say that it’s a good time to be looking for a job and that the economy is improving.
Not so in Puerto Rico.
Only 6% of residents of Puerto Rico surveyed said that their economy is improving. Among U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico is at the bottom of the pile. In West Virginia, the most pessimistic State in the Union, 24% of respondents said that the economy is improving. Relative to Latin America, Puerto Rico would also be at the bottom of the pile — sharing the spot with Venezuela.
It’s no mystery why Puerto Ricans are pessimistic about their economy. The governor has described the U.S. territory’s $72+ billion public debt as “unpayable.” The poverty rate is the highest in the nation and the employment level is the lowest. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla received a 19% approval rating from the the residents polled.
Four out of ten Puerto Ricans polled reported that their own standard of living is improving over time. This is lower than the least optimistic U.S. states, Alabama, Massachusetts and New Jersey, where 51% see things improving. The national number is 57%.
A large number of Puerto Ricans are leaving the U.S. territory to live on the U.S. mainland, where the economic situation is better and they can be participants in the democratic process, essentially exercising a level of control over decisionmaking regarding their economic future. Puerto Ricans can vote in presidential primaries but cannot vote for president. The sole representative from Puerto Rico in Congress lacks the power to cast a vote on federal legislation.
Gallup concludes that as Puerto Rico’s “fiscal crisis continues to play out, it is possible more Puerto Ricans will look to U.S. statehood as a preferred alternative to remaining a commonwealth.”