Should Puerto Rico become America's 51st state? Most say yes

Linley SandersData Journalist
September 09, 2019, 1:00 PM GMT+0

A majority of Americans would support Puerto Rico becoming a full-fledged state in the United States of America.

In fact, Puerto Rico is a more popular candidate for becoming America’s 51st state than any other US territory or Washington DC, according to a new YouGov poll on America’s potential 51st state.

Nearly six in 10 Americans (57%) “completely support” or “somewhat support” Puerto Rico being granted statehood if the territory’s residents want to formally join the United States. Fewer than one in five (18%) are opposed. By contrast, one-third of Americans (34%) express support for Washington DC being given statehood recognition and 30 percent are opposed.

Respondents were not provided a list of the benefits or drawbacks of adding a 51st state to America, but generally speaking, statehood for Puerto Rico would include the island receiving voting rights for congressional representatives, the right for its citizens to vote for the President of the United States in a general election, and a requirement to pay federal income tax. In the case of Washington, DC statehood, the district would receive its own voting members in Congress.

Three-fourths of Democrats (77%) say they “completely support” or “somewhat support” Puerto Rican statehood, which is 34 percentage points higher than the number of Republicans (43%) who indicate support. Half of Independents (56%) offer support for the US territory being granted statehood.

When US adults were asked explicitly whether they support or oppose Puerto Rico being granted the right to vote for the President of the United States in a general election, Republican support dropped from 43 percent to 38 percent. Independent support dropped from 56 percent for statehood to 47 percent for voting in the general election. Democratic support, however, remained at 77 percent.

YouGov asked respondents to explain why they support or oppose Puerto Rican statehood, in their own words. YouGov then categorized the responses. Among US adults who oppose Puerto Rican statehood, 22% say their opposition was because they believed the territory would be a burden on the American economy. The second reason most frequently provided was that the Puerto Rican government is too corrupt (16%).

Amongst Americans who support Puerto Rico becoming a state, nearly a quarter (24%) say it’s because Puerto Ricans are already American citizens, followed by a belief that the island deserves better representation (13%) in the United States. Nearly one in 10 (9%) people say that Puerto Rico deserves the assistance or benefits that come with being a state.

Americans are much less certain of their opinions about the US capital being granted separate statehood. More than one-third (35%) of Democrats “completely support” the federal district being spun off into its own state, more than double the number of Republicans (13%) who completely support the idea. Nearly one in five (19%) Independents would completely support the measure. Among all groups, over one-third (36%) responded “don’t know.”

Methodology: Total unweighted sample size was 1,251 US adults, which included 437 Democrats, 348 Independents, and 323 Republicans. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (ages 18+). Interviews were conducted online in English between August 21 - 22, 2019.

Related: Americans with ties to a Hispanic country say they identify more with US culture

What are your thoughts on adding a 51st state? Sign up for our panel and see the full survey results here.

Image: Getty