San Juan – Fifty-one percent of Puerto Ricans want to maintain the island's current relationship with the United States, according to poll results published Tuesday in San Juan's El Nuevo Dia.
A non-binding question on the island's future status will be on the ballot when Puerto Ricans go to the polls Nov. 6 to elect their next governor and their non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress.
Of the 1,000 people surveyed by El Nuevo Dia, 37 percent are in favor of modifying the current status, 6 percent are not sure, another 4 percent said they will not go to the polls and the remaining 2 percent refused to answer.
The survey also reflects that among the alternatives to the current commonwealth status, the most popular is that of the Sovereign Free Association, supported by 45 percent of respondents.
While 36 percent said they will vote for U.S. statehood, 5 percent favor independence, 9 percent said they would not vote, another 4 percent are unsure and 1 percent refused to take part in the study.
The pollsters found that 45 percent of Puerto Ricans do not understand what the different options really mean.
El Nuevo Dia said that the latter figure makes it clear that both the island's parties and the State Elections Commission must step up their efforts to educate the public.
The non-binding referendum in November includes, besides a "yes" or "no" choice about maintaining the current relationship with the United States, a second question asking voters to choose either statehood, independence or Sovereign Free Association, also known as "enhanced" commonwealth status.
Puerto Ricans have gone to the polls three times in the past 45 years to weigh in on the status question.
The first referendum, in 1967, produced a majority of just over 60 percent in favor of remaining a U.S. commonwealth. In 1993, support for commonwealth status had shrunk to a 48.6 percent plurality.
Five years later, 50.3 percent of Puerto Ricans casting ballots rejected all three options - statehood, independence and commonwealth - and checked the box marked "none of the above."
Puerto Rico came under Washington's sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.
Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.
The New Progressive Party of incumbent Gov. Luis Fortuño favors U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico. The main opposition Popular Democratic Party advocates enhanced commonwealth status.