Puerto Rico poised to say yes to statehood in plebiscite

by Oct 30, 2020Elections, Headlines, Polls, Puerto Rico, Status0 comments

The United States territory of Puerto Rico is poised to favor statehood in its upcoming status plebiscite on November 3, 2020, according to Pasquines’ 2020 Elections Territorial Poll from October. In the poll, 70.20% of respondents indicated they would vote in favor of Puerto Rico being admitted as a state of the union, with 29.80% indicating they would vote against. All respondents answered the question either in favor or against. These results could be altered due to an oversampling of New Progressive Party supporters among poll respondents, despite our weighting efforts based on voting history and demographics. That said, there were surprising data points that could indicate the tide has turned, and usual statehood opponents have shifted views. 


When considering demographics, our poll has an oversampling of male respondents, which we weighed against using Puerto Rico’s latest Census data estimates. However, looking at the proportional support by gender, women are supporting statehood by about 10% more than men. This should help supporters of statehood if women turn out to vote on November 3 in higher proportions. It also helps from a basic statistical standpoint, since the US territory’s population is composed of a majority of women. 

Looking at support by educational level, statehood had a pretty show of support but registered a larger proportion among those on the lower levels of education.

When examining support by age group, there does seem to be a clear trend with older generations indicating they will be supporting statehood in the upcoming vote. Support for statehood does dip among those aged 55-74 years but shoots up to 100% for those above 75%. This could speak to generational gaps in terms of support for the statehood ideology, as it is clear in this poll that the youngest generation has a rising opposition to statehood.

Political factors

Moving on to the political data points, we see some expected results. For instance, as should be clear given Puerto Rico’s politics, affiliates of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party have the highest proportion of support for statehood. Surprisingly, however, in the poll statehood seems to also be pulling a sizeable amount of support from pro-territorial status Popular Democratic Party affiliates (more than 25%0, as well as half of those that are not affiliated with any party. Those who indicated an affiliation with the Citizen Victory Movement were largely opposed, with only 15% indicating they’d support statehood. This last point could spell trouble for the Popular Democratic Party in the governor and resident commissioner race. Should the new CVM party be pulling votes primordially from the PDP ranks, even facing a battered NPP, the Popular Democratic candidates might be facing a significant shortfall of votes, especially considering the historic allegiance NPP affiliates have to their party. We will dive further into this when we publish the poll results for the governor and resident commissioner races.

Similarly, when looking at support for statehood in comparison to support for each gubernatorial candidate, as expected, supporters of NPP candidate Pedro Pierluisi showed the highest proportion of support for statehood, while supporters of MVC nominee and independence supporter Alexandra Lugaro registering the lower proportion of statehood support. Supporters of far-right Project Dignity candidate Cesar Vazquez also broke heavily in support of statehood, as did undecided voters in the gubernatorial race (this too could bode well for Pierluisi should this trend hold for the election). The surprising part in this analysis comes in the relatively high proportion of statehood supporters that have indicated they support the PDP’s nominee for governor. This could be due to two possibilities: a marked shift in preferences among the electorate in favor of statehood, or a fluke due to our relatively small sample size, the latter being the more likely possibility. That said, if our polling accuracy record holds, we could be in for some surprising results come Tuesday.

The question of US citizenship

As we’ve covered recently, the question of whether those born in US territories should be automatically granted US citizenship is a contentious topic, in political and legal circles. We asked poll respondents to indicate whether they thought automatic US citizenship should be the policy and then compared how that registered when looking at support for statehood. As could be expected, those who favor statehood also largely support automatic US citizenship, while the inverse is true for statehood opponents. That said, more than a fourth of statehood opponents indicated they support automatic US citizenship, signaling there is still widespread support for retaining close ties with the United States. 

Approval voting and the status issue

As part of our poll, we also included approval voting questions that allowed respondents to select all the options they approve of for certain races, as well as for the status issue, seeking to determine whether this voting method would help reach a solution. For the status issue, the results largely reflect the same trends, but do reveal an interesting fact, one we saw in the 2012 plebiscite results: if given the option, more voters would choose a form of independence. Given the complexities of approval voting questions, we did not weight the answers for this question, and as a result, these particular numbers should not be construed to be representative of the Puerto Rican electorate. They do provide some insight into the minds of the pro-statehood electorate, indicating they’d rather pursue independence rather than continue the current status. 

Overall, the results of the October edition of the 2020 Elections Territorial Poll provide some interesting insights into Puerto Rican voters’ minds in regards to the status issue. A relatively smaller sample size than we would have wished and oversampling of New Progressive Party affiliates lead us to believe our final results are showing too favorable of a picture for statehood. However, given recent trends, polling from other outlets showing somewhat similar results, and the fact that we have gotten seemingly incredible results before in our polling that turned out to be accurate, there is still a chance that these results do reflect what we will see Tuesday as Puerto Rico votes. 

Taking it all together, it is clear that voters that favor statehood are sure they will support it, while those on the fence still might not know if they’ll even cast a ballot for the plebiscite. In the meantime stay tuned for our next article publishing the results for the Puerto Rico governor and resident commissioner races with full data report, and for our Election Day 2020 coverage from the five US territories.