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U.S. English Poll Shows Bias

The group U.S. English has released a poll showing that more than half of Puerto Ricans would vote for statehood if there were a yes/no vote on the question.

No such vote is planned. The plebiscite coming up in Puerto Rico next month will ask two questions: first, whether the voter wants to keep the status quo; then, which of three different options the voter would prefer if a change were made. One of the three options is statehood. The others are independence and nationhood in free association with the United States. All three options have been accepted by the United Nations as acceptable relationships, and by Congress as possible under the U.S. Constitution.

Some Members of Congress have stated that there must be a clear majority in favor of statehood in order for the United States to consider admitting Puerto Rico to the Union, though “clear majority” has not been defined in numerical terms.The poll showed that 51% of the 1,000 “likely voters” polled would choose statehood if it were a simple yes or no question.

Interestingly, U. S. English didn’t report that the majority of respondents would choose statehood. They reported that 37% were “strongly in favor” of statehood and added that “support for statehood among Puerto Rican citizens is lacking.” The 14% who merely supported the option rather than supporting it strongly were included in the “lacking support” group.

U.S. English also asked voters whether they would support statehood if English were made the official language of Puerto Rico. The poll indicated that 28% would still favor statehood under those circumstances.

It’s not clear why this question was included in the poll. English is not the official language of the United States. Some states have declared English their official language; Hawaii has two official languages, and Puerto Rico could continue to have two official languages as it currently does.

U.S. English emphasized in their press release that 53% of families with household incomes below $55,000/year favored statehood, while only 29% of wealthier families did. In a community where the median household income is $18,862, with only 1,000 people polled, it seems unlikely that a random sample of likely voters would include enough respondents with household incomes above $55,000 to validate this conclusion.  If there are many more households earning less than $55,0000, which the median household income suggests, the total vote in support of statehood should be fairly close to 53%  — perhaps 51%, but not likely the 37% reported.

U.S. English did not ask voters about the other options to be included in the November vote. They also did not ask either of the questions that will be on the ballot.

It is tempting to think that U.S. English went to Puerto Rico in search of a lack of support for statehood.  The group was resistant to statehood when Congress considered the issue in 1998.  We are reminded of the historical argument in the midst of the women’s sufferage movement that a truly feminine woman didn’t want the right to vote. If it can be said that a group of people truly prefer to be without a set of rights, then it cannot be said that anyone is actually withholding those rights from them.

U.S. English has been working for nearly 30 years to have English declared the official language of the United States. The founding fathers did not do so; the Center for Applied Linguistics, one of our nation’s most respected sources of information on language, says that they did so in full awareness of the linguistic diversity enjoyed by our nation at the time the Constitution was written. English-only advocates are well within their rights to lobby for official language status for English, but their preferences should not influence the accuracy of their reporting on other issues — including the status of Puerto Rico.

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