Anyone born in Puerto Rico is a citizen of the United States, just as people born in states are citizens of the United States.
In 2016, a survey of people living in states found that fewer than half of Americans surveyed knew that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States.
In September 2017, a similar survey found that 54% of Americans were aware that Puerto Ricans were citizens. That’s an improvement, but still leaves a lot of people ignorant about the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
A Kaiser survey in October 2017 determined that 75% of respondents knew that Puerto Ricans are citizens.
A recent informal survey found that 96% of those surveyed knew that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Headlines are driving interest in Puerto Rico
What made the difference? A story at Yahoo News suggests that news coverage about Hurricane Maria and the recovery efforts has made people across the nation more aware.
Just after the hurricane, when Puerto Rico was asking the federal government for support, you could see comments in social media asking, “Why are we helping Puerto Rico?” The answer — Puerto Rico belongs to the United States and the U.S. is responsible for Puerto Rico — surprised these people.
On the other side, commenters were also saying, “Why aren’t we taking care of Puerto Rico the same way we’re taking care of Florida?” The answer — because Puerto Rico is a territory and doesn’t have the voice or the rights of a state — surprised a lot of people, too.
Does knowledge matter?
Research has found that people who understand the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States are more supportive of Puerto Rico. They want Puerto Rico to get the support needed to rebuild from Hurricane Maria. They’re more likely to favor statehood for Puerto Rico.
But many people still do not know that Puerto Rico has had U.S. citizenship for more than a century. One person who took the most recent poll asked, “Why does anyone say yes ? Has Puerto Rico been granted statehood and I missed it?”
32 territories have already become states, but it has been a long time since a territory was admitted as a state. Many Americans don’t really know what a territory is, and many don’t know that Puerto Rico is a territory.
One respondent to the latest survey believed that Puerto Ricans can choose between U.S. and Spanish citizenship. “They’re about half and half,” she said. Another thought that they had dual citizenship.
People with these misconceptions are less likely to support Puerto Rico and less likely to favor statehood for Puerto Rico. They don’t realize that Puerto Rico is a possession of the United States. They don’t realize that the United States is responsible for Puerto Rico.
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