The Importance of Central Florida and the Puerto Rican Vote

Residents of Puerto Rico don’t get to vote for the President of the United States, so you might assume that Puerto Rican voters don’t have a lot of say in the 2016 presidential vote.

Not so fast.

Here’s an interesting historical pattern:

  • In 1996, Senator Bob Dole carried only half of the counties in Central Florida and earned 49% of its votes. He lost the state. Bill Clinton won Florida, and went to the White House.
  • In 2000, then-Governor George W. Bush won half of the Central Florida counties, earning 50.9% of the Central Florida vote. This contest between Bush and Al Gore was decided by Florida, and Bush went to the White House.
  • In 2004, President George W. Bush won 4 of the 6 Central Florida counties — 53% of the vote, won the state by 5 percentage points, and won the election.
  • In 2008, Senator John McCain won only two of the counties in Central Florida and 47% of the vote. Barack Obama won Florida and the presidency.
  • In 2012, Mitt Romney carried half of the Central Florida counties and earned just under 50% of the Central Florida vote. He lost Florida by a single percentage point, and President Obama remained in office for a second term.

In other words, as Central Florida goes, so goes Florida; as Florida goes, so goes the White House.

In fact, from 1976 until now, there has only been one presidential election in which Florida did not vote for the winner: in 1992, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton won the election, but President George H.W. Bush won Florida. In every other election for the past 40 years, Florida’s vote matched the nation’s.

Some areas of Florida vote Republican, some Democratic. Central Florida votes both red and blue, but always votes for the winner.

So who is voting in Central Florida?

The chart at the top of the post tells the story: nearly 600,000 Puerto Rican voters are in the Central Florida Congressional districts. This is a larger group than any other Hispanic community in those districts.

We don’t know who will will the 2016 election, but we know that the Puerto Rican vote matters.

Here’s something else we know: 81% of Central Florida’s Puerto Rican voters surveyed in a recent study agreed with the following statement: “If Puerto Rico were to become a state and added the 51st star to the US flag, it would fill me with pride.”

Puerto Rican voters matter to the presidential candidates. Puerto Rico should matter to all Americans. Let your legislators know that it matters to you.

Download a slide deck with more details.

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