The first ever Gallup poll on statehood for the District of Columbia has found that 64% of Americans surveyed oppose it. 29% favor statehood for D.C. and 8% are undecided.
Several recent polls taken by organizations ranging from Fox News to Data for Progress have shown that people favor statehood for Puerto Rico over statehood for D.C. The Gallup poll, however, asked just one question: “Would you favor or oppose making Washington, D.C. a separate state?”
Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones told POLITICO “We have found, historically, support for making Puerto Rico a state, and people supported making Alaska and Hawaii states [in the 1950s],” he said. “But there’s something different about DC.”
What’s different about D.C.?
Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico were all U.S. territories when Gallup asked about statehood for them. Statehood is the usual end point for U.S. territories, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, and Oregon, all of which were territories before becoming states. In fact, 32 U.S. territories have become States.
Puerto Rico can become a State by a simple majority vote in Congress. Voters in the territory chose statehood in plebiscites in 2012 and 2017, and the current government in Puerto Rico has officially requested statehood.
Statehood for D.C. would be more complicated. The current plan involves cutting out a piece of the District to serve as the administrative center for the nation’s government, and making the rest of the District into a State.
Who favors statehood for D.C.?
Virtually all of the current Democratic presidential candidates favor statehood for D.C. Gallup found that women, people of color, and people who said they were Democrats were slightly more likely to be in favor of statehood for D.C., but even in these groups, the majority said no.
This is not changing over time, either. While statehood for Puerto Rico is becoming more popular, statehood for D.C. is not. Gallup referenced two earlier polls asking this question:
- The Yankelovich/Clancy/Shulman poll in 1992 found that 57% opposed statehood for D.C.
- 52% opposed it in the 1989 Washington Post poll.
Gallup headlined their report of the survey “Americans Reject D.C. Statehood.” However, the American people do not have to agree with the idea. Congress alone makes decisions about statehood. And while the question is often paired with questions about Puerto Rico statehood, the two issues are not in fact strongly related. Residents of D.C. already get to vote in presidential elections, while Puerto Rican residents do not. D.C. voters pay (or at least file) income taxes, while residents of Puerto Rico do not usually do so. And, while there may be financial implications of statehood for D.C., the District does not face the inequities in Medicaid and other federal programs that Puerto Rico faces.
The House of Representatives plans to hold a hearing on D.C. statehood later in the year.