How Popular Is Independence in Puerto Rico?

Independence has never been a very popular option in Puerto Rico. It has not received as much as 6% in any status vote, and no independent candidate has ever won as governor.

Independence has gotten the following percentages of votes in the plebiscites that have taken place so far:

  • July 23, 1967: 0.6%
  • November 14, 1993: 4.4%
  • December 13, 1998: 2.5%
  • November 6, 2012: 5.54%
  • June 11, 2017: 1.5%

To put the numbers in perspective, compare them to some other independence votes — or at least polls — in the United States.

In 2016, 26% of Texans polled by Public Policy Polling said they were interested in seceding from the United States. This was an increase from 15% in 2010 and 18% in 2009. Texas was an independent nation, the Republic of Texas, for almost a decade before becoming a state in 1846.

In short, significantly more Texans want independence than Puerto Ricans do. Average all the data points, and we see that six times as many Texans chose independence in polls than Puerto Ricans voted for independence. And yet it is still clear that most Texans don’t want independence and Texas is not expected to secede any time soon.

A 2016 poll by Survey USA of Californian voters found that 23% favored independence from the United States. A Hoover Institution poll taken in 2017 found 25-27% of those asked were in favor of independence. Again, this is a much larger percentage than the percentage of Puerto Rican voters who choose independence. And again, it is only a small percentage of all Californians, and will not lead to a Calexit.

A small group of American settlers declared themselves the Republic of California for about a month before California became a state. The group was never recognized as a nation and in fact never became organized to the point of having a government. Like Texas, California was interested in leaving Mexico, and leaders were discussing independence, becoming associated with another nation (Great Britain and France were the most likely candidates), or statehood. California became a state in 1850.

More than 150 years after these two states, both of which had some experience with independence, became states, there are still remnants of an independence movement in those states. Could some people in Puerto Rico continue to desire independence after Puerto Rico becomes a state? That could happen.

At this point, however, independence is not a popular choice in Puerto Rico… not even as popular as in California and Texas.

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