By: David Freddoso
In 2017, Florida overtook New York to become the state with the largest Puerto Rican population in America. This milestone serves to illustrate just how much political influence the Puerto Rican diaspora has come to exercise, even though Puerto Rico itself has no vote for president.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens from birth. They carry U.S. passports, serve in the U.S. military, and pay a variety of taxes to the federal government, even though their situation is different from U.S. states. Florida and national presidential candidates cannot afford to overlook Puerto Rican voters, who have become concentrated in Central Florida, in the state’s all-important I-4 corridor. When courting these voters, no candidate can afford to ignore the strong opinions they tend to retain about Puerto Rican statehood, revealed in multiple opinion surveys in recent years.
This is an especially important truth given that most presidential candidates’ — and all Republican presidential candidates’ — paths to the White House pass through Florida. Add to this that Central Florida has been the key to winning the state for decades.
This white paper examines these crucial Floridian voters’ attitudes toward Puerto Rico’s status. It does so by analyzing a series of surveys among Puerto Rican Floridian voters, in hopes of determining what kind of messages, especially on statehood, are likely to succeed or fail.
In the end, one very reasonable conclusion is that the adoption of even just a certain tone on this topic could make or break a presidential candidacy, throwing tens of thousands of votes one way or another in a state that tends to be won by the slimmest of margins.