Before we get to a new poll published by the Vocero that flips the issues (yet again) of Puerto Rico’s political identity and colonial relationship with the United States, which has essentially owned the island since 1898 (yes, the US Army landed on the shores of Puerto Rico to win a war against Spain), you need to know a few things:
- Politics in Puerto Rico are, plain and simple, just messed up right now. Try to stay with me here. You have an unpopular Republican and pro-statehood Governor (Luis Fortuño) who has been unable to turn the island’s economy around in his four years in office because the previous administration screwed it up too (BIG TIME), but still has a decent shot at re-election because the guy he is running against (Alejandro García Padilla) is well, not exciting, and basically has issues himself (you will see why later in this post). Then you have other parties (like the group that wants independence) trying to stay relevant in the age of social media and 24/7 news cycles.
- Another way to look at it is like this: Fortuño is to Barack Obama (considering Puerto Rico took billions of dollars of federal stimulus money) as what García Padilla is to Mitt Romney (going after the incumbent in a clunky way). But the fact is that Fortuño is a Republican and García Padilla is a Democrat. Then imagine if the United States were holding a vote about what type of government they would like to become the very same day that they are voting for President. THAT is Puerto Rico this year, where gubernatorial candidates are not only running against each other, but their respective parties and others (the pro-statehood PNP and the pro-commonwealth-status quo-enhanced commonwealth-whatever PPD, and the pro-independence PIP) are also pushing a vote for Puerto Rico’s political status issue, an issue that has dominated Puerto Rican politics like the elephant in the room for decades.
- And remember, NO MATTER what the Puerto Rican people decide in terms of political status, the CRAZY THING is that the damn vote is non-binding, which means the US Congress will still have to take action on the will of their own citizens and not even take the vote into account (another complication). Now, Fortuño, who endorsed Romney, is banking on Romney becoming President so that if Fortuño wins re-election and the political status vote favors statehood, Fortuño will have a friend in the White House to push statehood for Puerto Rico. And García Padilla is of course pulling for Obama to win, but Obama has already gone on record last year to say that if the status plebiscite is close and there is not an overwhelming majority for one option, Congress won’t act.
- So basically, Puerto Rico is trying to put this whole political status question behind them (it has been going on for like decades since the 60s) so that the island can move forward and actually achieve progress economically, socially, and politically. But since we tried to explain all the craziness that is going on right now, you can see how critical the 2012 elections are for the island.
Which brings us to the Vocero poll. The poll asked the following question of Puerto Ricans: If the plebiscite were held today, what would you vote for: statehood, enhanced commonwealth or independence?
The results reported by the newspaper conclude the following: 41% for statehood, 37% for enhanced commonwealth, 4% for independence, 4% wouldn’t vote and 14% are undecided. So, at halftime, we have a tie, people, yet again! Why does that not surprise us since all the previous plebiscites never showed a clear majority (and also never got acted upon, so why are we discussing this again?)
What is so surprising about this poll has to the do with the issue of enhanced commonwealth. In 2008, this idea of an enhanced commonwealth that would define a more clearer non-colonial and non-territorial relationship with the United States was the status option that the PPD party was promoting. But when the PPD lost to Fortuño and the PNP, a push from the traditionalists of the PPD who favored to maintain the “status quo” began, culminating in García Padilla pushing for it as well. All of a sudden, enhanced commonwealth was no longer popular in 2010 as it was in 2008. In fact, that option of enhanced commonwealth was polled at 6% while the status quo was at 39% and was actually the top choice over statehood by 4%. Now, all that is out the window and García Padilla, the guy everyone in the PPD is banking on beating Fortuño, looks like the guy who placed the wrong bet on the wrong status option. Oops. Our guess is that he will react quickly to this revelation. Or will he? Remember when we said he was like Romney?
Other poll findings are just as interesting. Here are some of our favorites:
- There is more statehood support outside the San Juan metro area (44%) than there is in the San Juan metro area (35%).
- Voters 18-49 are choosing statehood over enhanced commonwealth 44%-34%.
- 11% of people who say they are PPD would vote for statehood while 11% who say they are PNP would vote for enhanced commonwealth. Huh?
- 18% of the San Juan metro area is undecided while 17% of those 35-49 are undecided as well.
This has only just begun. Looks like there will be another close vote and who knows where Congress will go with this. Status becomes the issue while the island does not progress. Classic Puerto Rican Politics 101.