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Puerto Rico: Listening in on the Conversation

A recent poll on Puerto Rico’s political status indicates that statehood is the preferred option among Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida.

But polls are not our only source of information about the thoughts of the people. Social media now provides a public forum for discussion that allows us to track and analyze the ordinary conversations of ordinary people. We can find out what they think, what news stories they’re sharing, and how they feel about a variety of subjects.

Social media is now the top activity on the internet; people spend more time engaging with each other through social media than they do with email, for example. The majority of Americans now use social media, and the 54-64 year-old age range is the fastest growing. While far fewer people post in social media than listen, the population of active social media users is far larger and more diverse than the sample size in a typical poll.

With the vast amount of social media available, it can be difficult to discern how a particular topic is trending. Fortunately, computers can help. Social listening tools grab mentions of a subject at a wide range of social media sites, analyze them for positive or negative tone, and then present the remarks for further exploration.

SocialMention, a popular social listening tool, shows Puerto Rico as a topic with an 11:1 ratio of positive to negative mentions. As we might expect, many of the comments they’re counting focus on enjoyment of a vacation in Puerto Rico, a sports team, or a musician’s tour in Puerto Rico. There is a new mention of Puerto Rico in social media every 14 seconds.

Examining “Puerto Rico status” turned up a 5:1 positive ratio; however, many of the mentions were not about Puerto Rico’s political status, but about weather and other issues using the term. However, there are plenty of people talking about Puerto Rico’s political status online. Here, for example, is a sampling of Twitter content on the subject from Topsy, a Twitter-specific social listening tool:

(Click to see the screenshot larger.)


“Puerto Rico statehood” has a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative mentions. Many of the social media mentions reported are news stories people have linked to at Twitter, Reddit, and similar social media sites. Some of the most popular news items and conversations:

  • A video showing that former Governor Luis Fortuno favors dealing with statehood for Puerto Rico as a high priority.


  • A discussion of the recent pro-statehood demonstrations in San Juan, suggesting that the Immigration and Naturalization Service should have sent agents there to round up undocumented residents. This comment sparked intense discussion not only of the fact that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States but also of Puerto Rico’s status. (Click the screenshot to see the conversation in a larger image.)
  • A number of videos and conversations about the recent discussions on the subject in Congress.

There were also plenty of less popular but still interesting mentions, including a student project:

Twitter shows more than 700 tweets on the subject this month, including this sampling:


“Puerto Rico independence” shows a 7:1 ratio; however, nearly all the mentions are from a 2012 story about the return to San Juan of an Independence activist. There is a mention only, on average, every 24 days. Twitter shows some activity on the subject:


“Puerto Rico Commonwealth” shows a positive: negative ratio of 0:0; there just isn’t enough conversation on the subject, with a mention only once every 7 months, on average. “Puerto Rico ELA” and “enhanced commonwealth” also turned up very little: one video and 9 tweets in total.


We can see that statehood is the most frequently discussed option for Puerto Rico’s political status, and that there are people joining in from a wide range of perspectives. Independence is occasionally mentioned. The “Commonwealth” option, which has been rejected by the U.S. government, is not being discussed.

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