James Madison Institute examines the impact of Puerto Rican voters in Florida elections

by | Sep 28, 2022


  • The free-market American think tank released a new report examining the impact of Florida’s Puerto Rican voter’s attitudes toward a variety of issues 
  • Today, Puerto Rican residents are found in high concentration throughout Central Florida, a region that has been decisive in every U.S. presidential election since 1992

James Madison Institute (JMI) released an updated backgrounder on Wednesday, examining the role of Puerto Rican voters in Florida elections.

”This is a story about Puerto Ricans in Florida as a growing segment of voters with an increasing sphere of influence, not about the history of the Puerto Rico Commonwealth. Any candidate can use this information, regardless of ideological philosophy or political persuasion,” said Sal Nuzzo Vice President of Policy, The James Madison Institute.

In 2017, Florida passed New York with the largest Puerto Rican population in the U.S. The perspective of this Floridian population – over a million potential voters – is pivotal in securing the presidency in a swing state that has chosen the winner of 17 out of the last 20 presidential elections.

Today, Puerto Rican residents are found in high concentration throughout Central Florida, a region that has been decisive in every U.S. presidential election since 1992. WIth just one exception, the winner of this region has won every gubernatorial race since 1990.

Twice as many Puerto Ricans live in U.S. states today as in Puerto Rico, thanks in large part to the island territory’s dramatic long-term loss of population. But many of them continue to feel invested in the fate of their ancestral homeland. Surveys show that mainland Puerto Ricans especially believe the territory’s uncertain status is a major cause of its political corruption and instability. Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S., having voted with their feet to live in a U.S. state, are also the most likely to want statehood for Puerto Rico. The statehood supporters among them, in turn, are also the most likely among Puerto Rican voters to support conservative ideals and Republican candidates.

A new report from JMI adjunct scholar, David Freddoso, titled, “Common Themes from the Commonwealth, 2022 Update: Puerto Rico’s Growing Role in Florida Politics,” examines the impact of Florida’s Puerto Rican voter’s attitudes toward a variety of issues and how candidates could appeal to this crucial segment.

The analysis concludes that candidates for office should approach this issue carefully and respectfully if they want to gain support within this influential bloc of voters.

“Puerto Ricans inside and outside the territory consider its unresolved status to be a major source of its unique ills — that is, its political instability and mismanagement, its dwindling population, its chronic high unemployment, its high crime, et cetera. The most conservative Puerto Ricans are also the most likely to believe this and to support statehood as a consequence,” said David Freddoso, Adjunct Scholar, The James Madison Institute.

“The last referendum in Puerto Rico produced, for the first time, an unambiguous majority in favor of statehood. This puts mainland politicians at a crossroads. Republicans especially need to stop thinking of Puerto Rican statehood as some kind of Democratic Party conspiracy to seize power, especially with the voting habits of many Hispanic nationalities shifting. The referendum result means that political candidates must approach this question sensibly and respectfully, whatever side they ultimately take,” he added.

To read the full report, click here.

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