Population of Puerto Ricans nationwide growing rapidly, affecting national races

by | Oct 16, 2018 | Elections | Comments

A new study released by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies points to a rapid pace of growth in the number of Puerto Ricans living in the United States.

According to the data, the number of Puerto Ricans on the mainland grew from 5.4 million in 2016 to 5.5 million in 2017. Interestingly, Florida became the state with the greatest total number of Puerto Ricans for the first time in 2017. The study attributes this rise to three key factors: migration to the Sunshine State from the islands, internal migration from other states, and natural growth.

The state of Florida far outpaced any other state as a destination for migration from Puerto Rico. In fact, Florida alone accounted for 29% of all migration from the islands in 2017—far outpacing the nearest state, Pennsylvania, at 8%.

The rising mainland Puerto Rican population has led to debate around the political repercussions of such an increase. While some have speculated that the expanding presence of Puerto Ricans in states like Florida can tip statewide elections one way or the another, others have cast doubt.

While it is true that Florida is rapidly becoming home to thousands of Puerto Ricans, there is no corresponding rise in their voter registration numbers at the moment. Puerto Ricans in Florida, especially those who resettled in the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last fall, have been struggling to with housing and job insecurity. In addition to those concerns, newly settled Puerto Ricans carry with them a distrust of the political system from their home island. With other pressing issues on their minds, there has been no recent surge in registration numbers for Puerto Ricans in the state of Florida.

Regardless of the numbers, the Democratic and Republican parties of Florida have moved quickly to engage the Puerto Rican community. With an open governor’s race and a hotly-contested Senate race, both parties have an incentive to reach out to these new voters. While the impact these new voters will have on a statewide election in Florida will be unclear until after Election Day, their increased presence has already gotten the attention of the two major parties.