Two in three Americans support statehood for the US territory of Puerto Rico, a Gallup Poll released Thursday found, a figure that’s largely consistent with where public support for reclassifying the island has been for decades.
The poll found 66% of Americans support statehood for the island with notably high backing from Democrats (83%) and younger voters between 18 and 29 (80%). American support for Puerto Rico statehood has remained between 59% to 65% since 1962, according to Gallup.
But even with consistent support from a majority of the American public, Puerto Rico statehood remains an elusive challenge. Legislation declaring Puerto Rico a US state would have to navigate Congress and a Republican Party that holds less support for granting the island statehood.
Thursday’s poll found a majority of Republicans — 48% — oppose statehood for Puerto Rico while 45% support it.
In September 2018, President Donald Trump said he did not support Puerto Rico statehood.
While support within Puerto Rico for statehood referendum was high in 2017 — 97% voted in favor of statehood — a turnout rate of just 23% cast doubt on leveraging the support into meaningful action. There is scant recent polling of Puerto Ricans on what they would like to see happen with the island.
Officially, Puerto Rico is officially a US commonwealth. While the island came under US control in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, it wasn’t until 1952 that the US and Puerto Rico officially approved a federal law making it a commonwealth.
Because of this, Puerto Ricans do not have a vote in Congress. As US citizens, they can vote in presidential primary elections, but they can’t vote in general elections.
Calls for Puerto Rico statehood were amplified in 2018 after the island was ravaged by hurricanes. At the time, White House officials told congressional leaders and appropriators that Trump did not want any additional relief funding sent to Puerto Rico, according to a congressional leadership aide.
“The people of Puerto Rico are wonderful but the inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations,” Trump tweeted in 2018. “The U.S. will NOT bail out long outstanding & unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!”