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Americans Continue to Support Puerto Rico Statehood

Americans Continue to Support Puerto Rico Statehood

Story Highlights

  • Gallup has recorded majority support for statehood since the 1960s
  • Support for Puerto Rico statehood highest among Democrats, young adults
  • Republicans have mixed views, with 45% in favor and 48% opposed

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two in three Americans (66%) in a June Gallup survey said they favor admitting Puerto Rico, now a U.S. territory, as a U.S. state. This is consistent with the 59% to 65% range of public support Gallup has recorded for Puerto Rico statehood since 1962.

Line graph. Two-thirds of Americans support statehood for Puerto Rico, consistent with previous readings on the issue.

While still a minority, the 27% who oppose making Puerto Rico a state is up slightly from the prior three readings, while the 7% with no opinion is relatively low.

Americans' current support for Puerto Rico statehood stands in contrast to their opposition to admitting Washington, D.C., into the union, which they oppose by about a 2-to-1 margin.

The U.S. annexed Puerto Rico in 1898, at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. In the century that followed, Congress granted the island certain autonomies, and Puerto Rico currently functions in many ways like a U.S. state. But there are key differences between its status and those of the 50 U.S. states, including that residents of Puerto Rico do not pay federal income tax and cannot vote in U.S. general presidential elections.

At the ballot box, Puerto Ricans have supported statehood in referendums conducted over the past decade. For example, 97% of voters cast their ballots in favor of statehood in 2017. However, the low 23% turnout rate in the 2017 referendum has given statehood opponents ammunition to cast doubt on the vote's legitimacy, particularly because leaders opposed to statehood urged their sympathizers to boycott the election.

Support for making Puerto Rico a U.S. state is not universally shared by leaders on the island. Puerto Rico's nonvoting congressional delegate has submitted bills to make the territory a U.S. state, and statehood is a major priority of Puerto Rico's governor. Meanwhile, the mayor of San Juan, the island's capital and largest city, is opposed to Puerto Rico statehood.

In the past, Gallup has polled on other options that have been considered for Puerto Rico. Between 1962 and 1991, majorities of 55% to 67% of Americans said they favored granting Puerto Rico its independence if a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of it -- similar to the percentages who have supported statehood.

A separate question from 1977 and 1998 polls asked Americans to choose among three possible options for Puerto Rico -- with Americans split between granting Puerto Rico its independence, making it a state or maintaining its status as a U.S. commonwealth.

Most Groups Support Puerto Rico Statehood, but Support Is Mixed Among GOP

Majorities across key subgroups favor making Puerto Rico a U.S. state, with higher support among Democrats (83%), adults aged 18 to 29 (80%) and nonwhites (74%).

Republicans are mixed on the question of statehood for Puerto Rico, with 45% favoring statehood and 48% opposed. Just before Gallup put this latest poll into the field, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that admitting Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as U.S. states would amount to "full-bore socialism" because of the consequences of adding four Democratic senators to the U.S. Senate. Recent efforts to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, however, have garnered considerable congressional Republican support -- and the politician representing the island in the U.S. House of Representatives is a Republican herself. And though President Donald Trump has said he is an "absolute no" on Puerto Rico statehood, the four previous Republican presidents -- from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush -- have supported or have expressed support for statehood for Puerto Rico.

Support for Puerto Rico Statehood, by Subgroup
Favor Oppose
% %
National adults 66 27
Republicans 45 48
Independents 69 25
Democrats 83 11
18-29 80 18
30-49 65 26
50-64 66 26
65+ 58 37
Whites 63 31
Nonwhites 74 19
Gallup, June 19-30, 2019

Bottom Line

Puerto Rico's status has been debated for decades both among Puerto Ricans themselves and mainland Americans, who haven't seen a new state admitted in 60 years. What Puerto Rico shares with the 49th and 50th states is that Americans have repeatedly expressed support for its statehood over time, as was the case when Gallup polled on the prospect of admitting Alaska and Hawaii in the 1940s and '50s.

What complicates the territory's path to statehood now is not U.S. public opposition, but rather a series of political events that have unfolded both in San Juan and in Washington.

In San Juan, the governor's committed push for statehood may now be jeopardized by scandals within his administration, which have led to thousands of residents protesting outside the governor's mansion, calling on him to resign. And if the mayor of San Juan defeats him in the 2020 gubernatorial election, her anti-statehood platform may put a stop to further statehood efforts.

Meanwhile, in Washington, any efforts to make Puerto Rico a state will find opposition in the U.S. Senate leadership and in the White House, where Trump maintains a running feud with some of the island's politicians over their criticisms of the federal government's handling of the response to Hurricane Maria.

View complete question responses and trends.

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