From June 1 to June 4 2017, El Nuevo Día published a series of surveys about different issues that are currently affecting Puerto Rico. These topics include the Fiscal Oversight Board, the restructuring of the island’s debt, Puerto Rico’s political status, the strike at the University of Puerto Rico, and more. A summary of the survey results follows.
*Note: 1000 people participated in the surveys, which were conducted between May 24 and 26 of 2017, and have a margin of error of 3.2%.
Fiscal Oversight Board:
Surveys about the Fiscal Oversight Board (FOB) show that public perception of the board has changed. In October 2016, 47% of the participants believed that the FOB was very important. In the recent poll, only 31% said they think it is important, while 28% only believe that it is somewhat important. 41% think that the FOB is not very important, not important at all, or aren’t sure.
Also, the FOB’s approval rating has decreased since October 2016, when it was at 69%. Currently, the FOB has an approval rating of 43%, while 40% disapprove of the FOB.
Respondents are split on whether or not they believe the FOB will be beneficial for Puerto Rico. 51% believe that the FOB will be beneficial, while 49% think that it would not benefit the island at all. The 51% beneficial number shows a decrease in confidence—in October 2016 69% thought it was beneficial.
Survey respondents were also asked who they think will benefit most from the actions of the FOB. 44% believe that the board favors bondholders, while 56% believe that it favors both bondholders and the citizens of Puerto Rico, neither, or is not sure. 17% think that it only favors the people of Puerto Rico, a drop from 28% in the October 2016 survey.
Finally, the survey asked about the primary objective of the FOB. The majority of the people think that the FOB’s objective is to supervise the country’s income and expenses (45%) and govern Puerto Rico (29%).
Another survey asked about the amount of knowledge people had about the debt restructuring process. A shocking 88% of participants say they do not know anything, or report having just a bit of knowledge about the PROMESA Title III process. 41% are in favor of Puerto Rico filing for bankruptcy, and 56% are either against it or neither in favor nor against the filing.
Another survey asked about the opinion respondents had of Judge Laura Taylor Swain. 48% know of her and understand the responsibilities that she has, while 52% have no idea who she is or what she does. When asked how effective they think Judge Taylor Swain will be in Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy case, 30% say they believe she is going to be effective, while 19% are pessimistic about her ability to be effective. Another 30% believe that the result will be mixed.
On June 11, 2017, Puerto Rico will hold a plebiscite on its political status. The Popular Democratic Party and the Puerto Rican Independence party, along with other sectors, have called for a boycott of the plebiscite. According to the El Nuevo Día survey, this call for a boycott has little-to-no effect on the people. When asked if they will vote in the plebiscite, 72% said that they will, while only 20% stated that they will not participate. If these numbers are accurately reflected in turnout on June 11, then more people will have participated in this plebiscite than in the past general election, which the participation rate is between 55% and 65%.
On status, the majority of respondents say they will support statehood. In the case of registered voters, 52% say they support statehood, while 17% say they support the current territorial status and 15% support the free associated/independence option. When we look at the registered voters who say they intend on actually voting in the plebiscite, statehood gets a higher percent of 66%, while the current territorial status gets 16% and free association/independence gets 15%.
University of Puerto Rico:
Another important issue is the future of the University of Puerto Rico and the student strike that has been in place for over a month. According to the survey, 65% of people are against the student strike and 24% are in favor. In the case of the proposed cuts to the University budget, 38% are in favor of the cuts, 35% are against the cuts, and 23% are neither in favor nor against the cuts.
Government of Puerto Rico:
Along with the economic crisis, Puerto Rico is also experiencing a crisis in confidence in political leaders—approval ratings are quite low for executive and legislative leaders.
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has an approval rating of 39%, while 38% of people disapprove of his work. 19% of respondents do not approve or disapprove of how he is doing his job. However, when compared to former governor Alejandro García Padilla at the beginning of his term, Governor Rosselló has the better numbers. At the time, García Padilla had an approval rating of 30% and a disapproval rating of 46%.
In the legislative branch, 40% of those surveyed think that the legislature is doing worse than expected. The approval rating of the legislative leaders is as follows: The President of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, has 33% approval and 43% disapproval. The Speaker of the House, Carlos “Johnny” Mendez, has 32% for both approval and disapproval.
Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez seems to be doing best, with an approval rating of 47% and a disapproval rating of 29%. When compared to former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s 36 percent approval during the same time of his tenure, she is doing significantly better.
Another political leader included in the survey was the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who got an approval rating of 24%, and a disapproval rating of 46%.
El Nuevo Día also published surveys about different socio-economic issues affecting residents of the island. One of these surveys was about quality of life. Most people consider their quality of life to be average, at 46%, while 38% think that their quality of life is bad or really bad. Only 16% believe that their quality of life is good or excellent. Also, the majority of the people think that their quality of life will not change in the next year. 42% believe that it will not change, 32% believe that things will get worse, and just 24% believe that it will improve. This shows that Puerto Ricans currently have quite a pessimistic view of their life on the island.
This pessimism extends to outlook on personal finance. 46% think that their financial outlook for the next year will be the same, and 43% believe that it will get worse. Most of the people surveyed believe the economy will improve after 10 years or will never improve (52%), while 40% think that it will improve in less than 10 years.
On other questions, 63% of the people think that things are getting worse. While 76% think that Puerto Rico is going through a serious problem and the majority of the participants (91%) have a pessimistic view of the future.
On May 1st, 2017 unions, students, and thousands of island residents participated in a march against the austerity measures recommended by the FOB. El Nuevo Día asked what people thought of the march, and if they believed it achieved any results. 45% of the participants were against the May 1st march, while 37% supported the march. The majority of those surveyed did not believe the march achieved its objectives, at 66%, while only 30% thought it accomplished some or all of its objectives.
A window into several concurrent crises:
These surveys and their results show that the people of Puerto Rico are currently living through several crises at once. The diverse results of the different surveys are evidence of the complexity of Puerto Rico’s unique political and economic situations. While these numbers are in no way an 100 percent accurate reflection of the opinion of everyone on the island, they are a useful tool for understanding how people view the different issues affecting them. We will discuss these issues further in future editions of Puerto Rico News.
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