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Florida Puerto Ricans By 2-1 Say “Commonwealth” Can’t Be Improved

Three-fifths of residents of central Florida of Puerto Rican origin accept that Puerto Rico’s current political status — territory, but sometimes misleadingly called “commonwealth” — cannot be improved, according to a recent professional poll.

The number is more than twice as many as want changes in the current status, the status course advocated by the territory’s “commonwealth” party which very narrowly won control of the insular government from the statehood party in 2012.

The 59% who recognized “[t]hat the Federal government has already said that fixing territorial status is impossible” was 31% greater than the 28% who wanted modifications made in a status that they acknowledge is a territory status.

The 59% also agreed in the scientific survey “that statehood is the best solution for Puerto Rico.”

The support for statehood was consistent with responses to other questions.

  • 58% said that the territory should be made a State based on a plebiscite that the Commonwealth government held along with the elections in 2012. In that vote, 54% of Puerto Rican voters rejected territory status and 61.2% chose statehood among the possible alternatives that have significant support in Puerto Rico.
  • Support for statehood in the poll grew to 64% when only alternatives to territory status were considered. A mere 18% chose nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end. The status was picked by 33.3% of Puerto Ricans in the 2012 insular plebiscite. Independence was favored by eight percent in the poll but by only 4.5% in Puerto Rico’s plebiscite.
  • 81% would be proud if Puerto Rico became a State, 60% “strongly” and 21% “somewhat.” Only 15% would not be proud, nine percent strongly and six percent somewhat.
  • 76% would welcome the Federal government providing for a vote in Puerto Rico on statehood: 53% would “strongly approve;” 23% would “somewhat approve;” and seven percent each would somewhat or strongly disapprove.

Puerto Rico’s statehood party last weekend resolved to seek the admission of the territory as a State of the U.S. based on the 2012 plebiscite.

Party members in the insular Senate this week proposed legislation for an election of U.S. senators and representatives, a method of seeking statehood pioneered by Tennessee and followed by other territories that became States.

Last year, party President Pedro Pierluisi, the Commonwealth’s representative to the Federal government, proposed a bill to enable Puerto Rico to be admitted as a State if Puerto Ricans vote for the status again. As the sole voice of the territory of 3.6 million people in the U.S. House of Representatives, he led 131 other members of the House in sponsoring the legislation. Three U.S. senators led by Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced a companion bill.

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and most of his “commonwealth” party members who control the territorial Legislative Assembly oppose a vote on statehood.

A few party leaders, however, do not. They include Garcia Padilla’s predecessor as party president, former insular House of Representatives Minority Leader Hector Ferrer, who has hinted that he may challenge Garcia for the governorship in 2016.

The “commonwealth” party leadership is united, though, in its refusal to accept the validity of the 2012 plebiscite. It supported the current territory status rejected in the plebiscite and failed in its effort to defeat statehood.

The “commonwealth” party’s refusal to accept the plebiscite’s results led to President Obama proposing and the Congress in January passing legislation for a plebiscite on status options that can resolve the question of the territory’s ultimate status and do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States.

Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission would make a proposal for the options but the U.S. Department of Justice would have to find that the alternatives meet the requirements of the law. The Justice Department approval would make it awkward for a losing party to dispute the results.

The results of the poll are of national political importance. Florida is a State so closely divided between Democrats and Republicans that it can be a ‘swing’ State in presidential elections. It is so populous that it can also swing the elections one way or another. And voters of Puerto Rican origin are considered by news and political analysts to be the “swing vote” of this swing State.

A highly regarded national survey research company, Voter Consumer Research, conducted the poll. Although the firm only polls for Republicans when it does political surveys, it has been praised for the accuracy of its data by two of the most influential national political analysts not identified with a political party, Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg.

Voter Consumer Research interviewed residents of Florida living in the ‘I-4 corridor,’ which runs from he Orlando area to Tampa, from August 20th to September 4th. Much of Florida’s population of Puerto Rican origin lives in this area. Ninety-two percent of those questioned were registered voters in the State.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9% — an amount that would hardly matter given the lopsided nature of the results.




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