Perceptions in America: Puerto Rico & Disaster Relief Response

Ipsos poll on Puerto Rico and the Hurricane Disaster Relief Response

The author(s)

  • Julia Clark Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Annaleise Azevedo Lohr Director, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC —  In the wake of three major natural disasters in the United States, Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a survey to better understand how much Americans know about Puerto Rico and its relationship to the United States. The survey also examined American perceptions of the federal government’s obligations to its citizens following a natural disaster, and whether Americans approve or disapprove of recent disaster responses by the government.


A majority of Americans (75%) report being aware that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, whose residents are U.S. citizens.  Over one in ten Americans (14%) believe that Puerto Rico is its own country, while a slightly smaller number believe Puerto Rico is a U.S. state (11%). Over two-thirds of Americans (70%) understand that Puerto Rican residents, although U.S. citizens, do not have full representation in Congress and have no electoral college votes in Presidential elections. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to understand Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States (78% and 73% respectively), but fewer Republicans understand Puerto Rican residents voting rights than Democrats (65% and 71% respectively).


Awareness of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and their resulting damage is nearly universal (97% or more have read or heard something about each event), but approval of the federal government’s response is not as widespread. Over three-quarters of American approve of the federal disaster response for both Hurricane Harvey in Texas (78%) and Hurricane Irma in Florida (78%), but only 56% of Americans approve of the response in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Republicans are significantly more likely to approve of the responses in Texas (91%), Florida (90%) and in Puerto Rico (82%). Three-quarters of Democrats also approve of the response in Texas (75%) and Florida (75%), but just 40% of Democrats approve of the response in Puerto Rico, while 38% strongly disapprove of the response

Americans from both sides of the aisle agree that the federal government should provide people and supplies for immediate search and rescue ( All Americans 77%, Democrats 81%, Republicans 75%) and supplies and support staff until local utilities are back working ( All Americans 75%, Democrats 75% and Republicans 73%). Partisan differences are seen when offers of help become longer term: three-quarters of Democrats (76%) and Independents (74%) say the federal government should provide financial support to pay for rebuilding of infrastructure and utilities compared to 63% of Republicans.  Providing financial support to pay for rebuilding of private homes and property is also a partisan sticking point. Over half of Democrats (55%) believe the U.S. government should help rebuild private property, compared to just 35% of Republicans. Independents (46%) are in line with the population as whole (46%) when it comes to rebuilding private property.

About the Study

Ipsos Public Affairs set out to understand the general public’s perception concerning the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and the response to disaster relief efforts in the United States in general following the three major hurricanes in the month of September, 2017.

Ipsos interviewed 1,005 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online, in English. Fieldwork was conducted October 2-3, 2017. The sample includes 360 Democrats, 318 Republicans and 207 Independents. Data is weighted using U.S. census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of ± 3.5 percentage points for all respondents surveyed. This poll has a credibility interval of ± 5.9 percentage points for Democrats, ± 6.3 percentage points for Republicans and ± 7.8 percentage points for Independents.

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can  download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release please contact:

Julia Clark
Senior Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

Annaleise Azevedo Lohr
Senior Account Manager
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]


About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,782.7 million in 2016.


The author(s)

  • Julia Clark Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Annaleise Azevedo Lohr Director, US, Public Affairs

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