A new study by the James Madison Institute has identified the “vote-moving” issue for Puerto Rican voters in Florida.
The vote-moving issue for any voter is the issue that causes him or her to get out and vote. For some voters, it’s gun control or abortion. For the average voter in Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community, it’s statehood for Puerto Rico.
“Two-thirds to three-fourths of these voters favor statehood for Puerto Rico, according to recent polls,” the Institute reports. “And it’s not just a preference, but a vote-moving intensity. Eighty-five percent of these Floridians found the issue of Puerto Rican statehood to be ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important. The status issue ranked much higher than other issues in order of importance to these voters. Seventy-one percent are more likely to vote for a candidate (of either political party) who is open to Puerto Rican statehood.”
Why does Florida matter?
Florida is the quintessential swing state. Not only is Florida unpredictably blue or red, it has voted for the winner in every presidential election for the past 80 years, except 1960 and 1992.
Since 1992, the I-4 corridor has voted for the winner in every presidential election, leading to the claim that “As I-4 goes, so goes Florida” and “The road to the White House runs through Florida.”
It’s generally agreed that winning the I-4 corridor is essential for presidential hopefuls. Research suggests that respect for Puerto Rico statehood will be demanded of any candidate who hopes to influence Florida.
It’s widely believed that Republicans don’t want statehood for Puerto Rico because the new state’s voters will go Democratic. This is a frequently heard claim even though statehood for Puerto Rico is part of the Republican Party’s platform. It’s often heard even though the Resident Commissioner, the voice of Puerto Rico in Congress, is herself a Republican.
The facts suggest that Puerto Rico will be a swing state. However, Republicans who are determined to speak against Puerto Rico statehood may find that they create a self-fulfilling prophecy, encouraging Puerto Rican voters in Florida and elsewhere to vote Democratic.
A change of attitude could be more effective for the GOP.
At the same time, some prominent Democrats are following the “commonwealth” party’s lead. They could be damaging their chances, too.
While the candidates may have their own opinions on Puerto Rico statehood, a respectful and open response might be key to this year’s election.
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