Once again in this presidential election year, Florida is a battleground state. 270toWin.com calls it “the ultimate battleground state” — and, as of this writing, “a toss-up.” Every vote in recent elections has been nearly 50/50, and in every vote except the 1992 Clinton election Florida has voted with the winner.
But the voters in Florida have changed since the last presidential election. Florida is now home to more than one million Puerto Ricans, the largest Puerto Rican population in any state.
32 million Latino voters will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election. This is the second largest demographic in the United States, after non-Hispanic white voters, and just slightly larger than the pool of eligible Black voters.
In Florida, more than 20% of eligible voters are Latino. Florida also has the largest number of Puerto Rican voters in the States.
While Latino voters as a group tend to vote Democratic, they also support Trump more than might be expected. And Latino voters might be a group, but they are not a voting bloc.
Puerto Rican Voters
There is a persistent idea that Puerto Ricans will support Democratic candidates over Republican ones. However, the political parties in Puerto Rico are not divided in that way. Instead, the parties represent the three possible status options: statehood, continued territorial status, and independence.
A 2019 poll of Puerto Rican voters in Florida showed that those surveyed showed similar proportions of preferences as in most polls:
57% favored statehood.
26% preferred “Commonwealth.”
6% chose independence.
The Republican Party is formally associated with statehood in Puerto Rico, while the Democratic Party has members associated with statehood, independence and the “commonwealth” option.
A 2019 poll taken in New York among Puerto Rican voters found that 65% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans, and 67% of Independent voters (self-identified) supported statehood.
Florida voters in midterm elections backed statehood supporters rather than a particular mainland political party.
Puerto Rican voters also tend to be socially conservative.
Both Democrats and Republicans are likely to woo Puerto Rican voters in Florida in the run-up to the election. The status issue can be expected to be a part of the conversation.