English-only group releases statehood poll
The islandwide survey was conducted by U.S. English, a nonpartisan organization that pushes for making English the official language of the nation and has taken general positions against Puerto Rican statehood.
“It comes as no surprise that support for statehood among Puerto Rican citizens is lacking. Puerto Ricans currently have the best of both worlds — the flexibility of maintaining their unique culture while also enjoying the benefits of being United States citizens,” said U.S. English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica.
The poll also found that 51% would favor statehood in a “yes” or “no” vote. However, the U.S. English press release on the poll did not include that additional 14% who would back statehood.
The poll found that only 28% of those surveyed would still support Puerto Rico becoming a state if the U.S. Congress required that in order to do so, English is made the sole official language of Puerto Rico.
“Even more alarming is that barely one quarter of those polled support Puerto Rico statehood if, in order for this to happen, English is declared the sole official language,” Mujica said. “In the United States, English is overwhelmingly the common language — official government business is conducted in English, judicial and legislative proceedings are conducted in English and our education system is taught in English.”
The United States doesn’t have an official language and there is not much momentum on Capitol Hill to adopt one.
Support for statehood was fairly consistent among individuals whose total household income was below $55,000, averaging 53%. Support among individuals whose total household income was above $55,000 dropped to 29%.
The average median household income in the United States in 2010 was $50,046. In Puerto Rico, it was only $18,862.
The U.S. English report raised various red flags about the impact of Puerto Rican statehood on federal coffers, including misleading inferences that islanders currently do not qualify for federal food aid or Medicaid.
“Should statehood be chosen and approved, residents of Puerto Rico would become eligible for U.S. government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. With 41% of Puerto Ricans living in poverty, this could represent a significant cost burden on the United States government,” U.S. English said.
However, Puerto Rico already receives Medicaid funds (though not on par with the states) and island residents do qualify for Nutritional Assistance Program benefits.
The face-to-face poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted less than two months before Puerto Rico residents will vote on the status issue during an election day plebiscite on Nov. 6.
The plebiscite ballot will consist of two questions. Voters will first be asked whether they want the current territory status to continue. Regardless of how voters answer that question, they will then be asked to express their preference among the three alternatives to the current status: statehood, independence and nationhood in free association with the United States.
Puerto Ricans previously have voted to remain a commonwealth in referendums issued in 1967 (60 percent) and 1993 (48 percent). In a 1998 plebiscite, the “none of the above” option won with 50 percent of the vote, followed by statehood at 46 percent. The “none of the above” option was added by the commonwealth supporting Popular Democratic Party to protest the definition of “commonwealth” on the ballot.
U.S. English reiterated its argument that 50% plus one vote isn’t enough to win statehood.
“U.S. English has long declared that a supermajority — not simple majority — of Puerto Ricans must support statehood in order for the change in political status to be considered by the United States Congress,” Mujica said. “The 37% of respondents who indicated strong support for statehood in this poll is simply not enough. Choosing to become a state is a permanent decision and one that should not be taken lightly.”
Mujica concluded that the lack of English proficiency among Puerto Rico residents, which he pegged at 20%, should keep the island out of the union.
“While every United States citizen should have the right to speak whatever language they choose in their daily lives, without first becoming fluent in the common language of America, it is counterproductive to consider admitting a state that will be in linguistic isolation to the rest of the country,” he said.