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July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

In Herald Poll, Statehood Wins Big. "Why?"

In a surprising result, 7 out of 10 readers responding to last week’s Hot Button Issue poll on Puerto Rico political status opted for "statehood," or permanent union with the United States. The remaining 3 out of 10 chose from among the three other status options previously identified by the U.S. House of Representatives as being consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

Definitions of the four status options followed guidelines provided by Congress for the December 1998 plebiscite, the last time island residents voted on the issue. The principle difference between the choices offered then and in last week’s Herald poll was that there was no "none of the above" category, to which 50.6% of the voters escaped in that contest. That option was tacked onto the ballot as a result of a local provision.

Post election analysis of the 1998 plebiscite by Zogby International revealed that the 50.6% of voters who chose the "none of the above" ballot option did so for a variety of reasons, including about 37% of that total that wished to see a different definition for Commonwealth, presumably one closer to the Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) vision of "Enhanced Commonwealth." This possibility was debated by the U.S. House of Representatives in the run-up to the vote for HR 856, but was rejected as being unconstitutional.

The results of the Herald poll could be an indicator as to how a new plebiscite could turn out when ballot choices eliminate the "none of the above" choice and strictly follow a Congressional mandate. As with all Herald polls, respondents self identified as mainland residents or voters from the island. As is typical with most polls, some 70% of participants represented the mainland and 30% the island.

The interesting question is, "why was the vote for statehood so overwhelming?" The reverse of that question, of course, is why did so few Herald readers opt for any one of the other status possibilities?

In consonance with Congressional definitions, three of four status options presented in the Herald poll provided full sovereignty for Puerto Rico. One, "Current Status," did not.

With the "Current Status," or Commonwealth option, Puerto Rico would not achieve sovereignty. It would remain an unincorporated territory of the United States. Its current local self-governing arrangement would remain intact and future U.S. Citizenship retained, but at the pleasure of Congress. Slightly more than 1 of 10 poll respondents, or 13% of the total vote made this choice overall in the Herald poll. In the 1998 plebiscite, less that 1% of voters choose the "Current Status" option, presumably retreating to the "none of the above" column.

The "Independence" option would bring about Puerto Rico’s separation from the United States and provide the island with sovereignty. Its residents would acquire Puerto Rican citizenship, but there would be no future U.S. citizenship for those born on the island. Among Herald respondents, the "Independence" option polled about the same as Commonwealth overall, at slightly more than a 1 in 10 preference, or 11%. In 1998, preference for Independence came in at 2.5%, somewhat less than the attraction that the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) generally receives in general elections on the island.

The "Free Association" option would require the island to first separate from the United States, on the same basis as provided for in the "Independence" option. Then, an independent Puerto Rico could enter into a treaty with the Government of the United States, one that, for example, provided a newly independent Puerto Rico help with such functions as national defense, diplomatic representation, trade negotiations, etc. This relationship would endure until the island could handle them on its own, or the treaty was broken by either party for any reason. The "Free Association" option was the least popular choice in the Herald poll. Overall some 1 in 20, or 6% of participants chose this option. This, however, is a better result than the approximate 2% support for the "Free Association" option in 1998.

As previously mentioned, the "Statehood" option enjoyed an approximate 7 to 1 preference on both the island and mainland. Statehood would mean permanent union with the other 50 states, American nationality and citizenship. This is a dramatic jump from the results of the 1998 plebiscite wherein 46.5 % of voters chose "Statehood."

The following is the final poll breakdown, reflecting the participation of 327 Herald readers.

US Residents . Residents
. PR Residents
OPTION #1: Current Status

5% OPTION #2: Free Association

72% OPTION #3: Statehood

10% OPTION #4: Independence


This week Herald readers can speculate as to why the outcome for Statehood was so high. Please vote from among the options above.

This Week's Question:

Why was the vote for statehood so overwhelming?

US . Residents
. PR
The Vote in U.S. elections

18% Preservation of U.S. Citizenship

21% Economic advantages of statehood

8% Dissatisfaction with other options

5% U.S. Patriotism

42% All of the above



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

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