RELEASE: New National CAPAF Poll Shows What Puerto Ricans Really Think Ahead of the 2020 Elections

Washington, D.C. — Many Puerto Ricans feel overlooked and ignored in several aspects of public and political life, particularly when it comes to the challenges their community faces from both Hurricane Maria three years ago and the coronavirus today. As such, heading into the final stages of the 2020 election, political leaders and policymakers ought to better understand the dimensions of Puerto Rican identity and their unique and strong views about issues facing the country. These are the main conclusions of a new poll released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, one of the most extensive examinations of the Puerto Rican community to date.

This sizeable national survey of 1,000 Puerto Ricans and those of Puerto Rican descent from all political parties living on the mainland, with an oversample of 200 Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania, was conducted by phone and online from September 4 to 11, 2020, by Latino Decisions on behalf of CAP Action amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis and Hurricane Maria aftermath. It examined Puerto Ricans’ voting behavior, civic integration, and interest and participation in U.S. politics as well as Puerto Ricans’ views of specific issues facing the country at large, including their opinions about the most important priorities for the upcoming election.

Key findings include:

  • Three-quarters of Puerto Ricans say that they will definitely vote in the 2020 presidential election, with approximately 15 percent probably voting.
  • 53 percent of Puerto Ricans prefer and would be most comfortable voting by mail, and 47 percent prefer and would be more comfortable voting in person.
    • 41 percent of respondents say that they have not received enough information on how to request a mail ballot.
  • Responding to the coronavirus pandemic is the most important national issue for Puerto Ricans (31 percent) followed by stopping discrimination against immigrants and Hispanics/Latinos (21 percent).
  • 49 percent of all Puerto Ricans “strongly disapprove” of the way President Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic.
  • One-third of Puerto Rican households have lost their job at some point during the pandemic, and more than 4 in 10 have had their pay cut or work hours reduced.
  • Two-thirds of Puerto Ricans were negatively affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and majorities feel both the federal government and the government in Puerto Rico failed to adequately help Puerto Rico get back on its feet.
  • 86 percent of Puerto Ricans overall believe corruption on the island is at least “somewhat” of a problem, with a full majority (51 percent) believing that island corruption is a “very big problem.”
  • Puerto Ricans lack consensus about the island’s relationship with the United States and possible political status outcomes, with no one option attaining plurality. But, regardless of their preferred status option, majorities across party lines would back a candidate for office who endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico.

“The findings in this study are clear. If political leaders or parties want to engage with Puerto Rican voters and encourage them to participate in this election cycle, they need to offer people in the community specific plans to improve their lives on jobs, education, and health care,” says John Halpin, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and co-director of its Politics and Elections program. “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic also influences Puerto Ricans’ views about voting, with many preferring to vote by mail but lacking solid information on how to do so and others nervous about exposure to the virus if they vote in person.  If these issues are not addressed soon, they could lead to lower turnout rates for Puerto Ricans.”

“Puerto Ricans are some of the most educated and passionate voters out there, but we have seen dramatic decreases in participation and turnout with mainland Puerto Rican voters versus voters on the island,” said Erin Cohan, chief of staff and vice president at CAPAF and co-lead of the Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy Initiative. “For that reason, we wanted to examine and bring to the forefront the issues important to Puerto Ricans so they can be better understood and integrated into the political process in the states.”

“This project on Puerto Rican civic participation in the United States gives us a unique opportunity to understand the massive contribution of the Puerto Rican community to the rich fabric of everyday American life,” said Stephen Nuño-Perez, communications director and senior analyst of Latino Decision.

“Because of recent events, the Puerto Rican population in the United States has been increasing. This survey helps us better understand the challenges Puerto Ricans are facing and the issues that are most important to them,” said Angela Gutierrez, analyst at Latino Decisions.

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