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Americans Divided Over Status Of Puerto Rico

Americans Divided Over Status Of Puerto Rico


PRINCETON, N.J. -- As the issue heats up in Congress, public opinion in the United States splits three ways on the political future of Puerto Rico. According to a new Gallup poll, 28% of Americans would like to see the Caribbean island become an independent nation, 30% prefer to admit it as the 51st state and 26% prefer to maintain Puerto Rico as a U.S. commonwealth.

The people of Puerto Rico may have an opportunity to choose among these three paths later this year if a bill providing for a national referendum on the island passes the U.S. Congress.

The current distribution of public opinion about Puerto Rico's status is similar to what Gallup found in 1977 when it asked Americans a similar question. At that time 20% favored Puerto Rican independence, 24% favored U.S. statehood, and 33% favored continuing its status as a commonwealth.

Education a Factor in Opinion
Support for admitting Puerto Rico as a state is related to respondents' level of education. Those with higher levels of education are most likely to favor making it the 51st state, although even among the most highly educated group, opinion is basically mixed.

There is little difference in opinion about Puerto Rico among Americans according to their party affiliation, with 27% of Republicans and 32% of Democrats favoring statehood. Only minor differences are seen across various age groups or among those living in different regions of the country.

Americans Would Support Puerto Ricans' Choice
Despite the lack of a clear consensus among Americans for statehood versus independence, previous Gallup polls have found that either decision would be acceptable to the American public. In a 1991 survey, two-thirds of Americans said they would support granting full independence to Puerto Rico if a majority of Puerto Ricans voted for it in a national referendum. At the same time, 60% of Americans said they would favor U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico if Puerto Ricans chose that route.

The "Puerto Rico Political Status Act" passed the U.S. House by a 209-208 vote on March 4, 1998 and calls for a national plebiscite in Puerto Rico by the end of 1998. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate later this year.

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,009 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 6-9, 1998. For results based on samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be plus or minus 4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

As you may know, the people of Puerto Rico may have an opportunity later this year to vote on the status of Puerto Rico. Do you personally think Puerto Rico: Should become a completely independent nation; should remain a territory of the United States, or, should be admitted to the United States as the fifty-first state? (RANDOM ORDER)

Become independent


Remain a US territory


Be admitted as the fifty-first state




No opinion




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