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December 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

The Hot Button Issue Poll — A Look at the Record!

Last April, this space reviewed Hot Button Issue Polls from the preceding six months, giving readers a glimpse of how they decided the numerous issues presented for their vote. This week, Herald editors pick up from that point, examining the "yeas, nays and occasional "no sé" registered by the readership.

The dominant theme in the polls over the past seven months was Puerto Rico politics, with fourteen of the thirty-one topics presented relating to skirmishes fought between the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), with occasional sniper fire aimed at both camps from the small territory of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PDP). Within this political category, five polls related to Governor Sila Calderon.

The Governor did not fare well in the opinion of the vast majority of Herald readers. During the week of May 30th, to the question, "Is the Governor’s exit from elective politics a good thing for Puerto Rico," 78% of respondents voted "yes," with percentages on the mainland and island almost identical.

Several weeks later, roughly 55% of poll participants thought that she was pushed out of office by PDP kingmakers, with remaining opinion divided between those who thought that she was pulled by personal considerations and those that were baffled by her decision. In other polls, 67% of readers said that she should discontinue her efforts to represent Puerto Rico as a sovereign nation in international conferences and 82% of respondents disapproved of her handling of the failed nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

In a late November poll, asking if Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the PDP contender for Ms. Calderon’s seat in 2004, should resign from his present post as Resident Commissioner to devote full time to his gubernatorial campaign, an interesting result occurred. A marked difference of opinion was registered between mainland voters and those participating from the island. 54% of mainland readers thought that he should resign while 51% of island respondents thought that he should not. Generally, in these polls, mainland and island breakdowns tend to be statistically close.

Another exception to that rule was a poll in early September asking if morale and recruitment in the Puerto Rico Army Reserves and National Guard would be affected by the Pentagon’s new policy of extended tours of duty in Iraq. A majority of readers on the mainland thought that it would, while residents of Puerto Rico thought that it would not.

Seven of the thirty-one Hot Button Issues were "straw polls," inviting readers to pick winners in NPP primary campaigns. In May, the poll offered choices for the Party’s run-off for a candidate for Resident Commissioner. It was then assumed that Carlos Pesquera would drop out of the NPP gubernatorial primary and present himself as a candidate for the Washington post. It also assumed that Sen. Kenneth McClintock would remain in the race until primary time. Other candidates then competing were Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló and former President of the Puerto Rico Senate, Charlie Rodríguez. The ultimate winner of the primary, Luis Fortuño, had not entered the race.

In that Herald poll several surprises emerged. A huge vote of nearly 500 readers showed, for the first time, more islanders participating than mainlanders, by a margin of 3 to 1. Sen. Ramirez was the winner with 39%, followed by Pesquera with 28%, McClintock with 17%, with Romero Barceló and Rodriquez each with 8%. As we now know, the actual primary turned out much differently. In a later poll in August, however, the readers got it right, projecting Luis Fortuño as the winner and accurately predicting the order of their actual finish in November. In a final straw poll held just weeks before the voting, readers accurately forecast an NPP primary victory for the Rosselló — Fortuño ticket over all other possible match-ups.

In early June, readers were asked, "Which party’s candidate will prevail in the 2004 elections?" By a margin of more than 3 to 1, the prognostication was that the New Progressive Party would be victorious. Three months later, the Poll asked respondents to rank the areas of most concern to the Puerto Rico electorate to be addressed by the new Puerto Rican government. Following is a breakdown of how the poll came out. Of note is a slightly higher emphasis on jobs and the economy among islanders than on a resolution of Puerto Rico’s political status.

Political Status 36% (1) 39% (1) 30% (2)
The Economy & Jobs 27% (2) 25% (2) 31% (1)
Crime and Security 23% (3) 24% (3) 21% (3)
Services: Health Care/Education 10% (4) 8% (4) 13% (4)
Infrastructure Projects 4% (5) 4% (5) 5% (5)

In August, after Secretary of State Colin Powell sent messages to selected U.S. embassies asserting that the Sila Calderon administration was representing Puerto Rico as a sovereign state in an attempt to gain admission to the Caribbean States Association and other international organizations, 62% of Herald readers agreed with his action. Subsequently, a Herald reader suggested that readers be polled on the subject. To the question, "Is Puerto Rico a Country or Part of the United States," 76% put the island within the framework of U.S. sovereignty, while the remainder preferred to think of Puerto Rico, "as a country."

On the subject of what approach will bring a final resolution to Puerto Rico’s territorial status and the desire of its American citizens for full civil rights and sovereignty, readers in August placed emphasis on the influence of the White House as the best hope for the matter’s resolution. Almost half the respondents backed the long-promised White House Task Force option while having less confidence in Pedro Rosselló’s referendum/ plebiscite approach or an appeal to the federal courts. The constitutional assembly idea advanced by Governor Sila Calderón and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and the PDP establishment polled a paltry 11% of reader’s votes.

In other recent polls, Herald readers by overwhelming majorities want:

  • President George W. Bush to sign an executive order giving Puerto Rican service men and women the right to vote in national elections.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau to include population data from Puerto Rico as a part of the total count for the United States as a whole.
  • Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner to have full voting power in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Athletes like Gigi Fernández and other Puerto Ricans who compete on U.S. Olympic teams to be recognized as "Puerto Rican Athletes."

On the other hand, poll respondents do not wish to see:

  • Constitutionally guaranteed rights tendered to the accused suspended in the nation’s fight against terrorism.
  • Visits to Puerto Rican troops in Iraq, such as the recent one by Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, used for political purposes.

Finally, and not surprisingly, readers consider the late Luis Antonio Ferré Aguayo, "Don Luis" as he was popularly known, as one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest political leaders.

As 2003 winds down, Herald editors solicit your preferences for polls during the coming year. Also, we seek your specific suggestions for future "Hot Button Issue" polls by emailing us at

From the following categories, please indicate your area of greatest interest and please vote above!

  • The 2004 political campaign
  • Puerto Rico’s Political Status
  • Puerto Rico - U.S. Relations
  • Iraq, Terrorism & the Military
  • U.S. & Island Puerto Rican Community

This Week's Question:
From the following categories, please indicate your area of greatest interest:

(US Mainland Residents, please vote on the left; PR Residents on right)

US . Residents
. PR
The 2004 political campaign 18%
45% Puerto Rico’s Political Status 37%
14% Puerto Rico - U.S. Relations 18%
11% Iraq, Terrorism & the Military 13%
16% U.S. & Island Puerto Rican Community 14%


.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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