SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — More than six in 10 Americans say that Puerto Rico isn’t getting the help they need and a majority says the federal government hasn’t been doing enough and the response is too slow, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A broad 62% of respondents said most Puerto Ricans are not getting the help they need, while only one in three said that they are. The results were largely split along party lines, with 80% of Democrats, 61% of Independents and 38% of Republicans saying more help is needed.
With more than 80% of Puerto Ricans without electricity after Hurricane Maria, the island’s recovery is expected to last years.
But on Thursday morning, President Donald Trump seemed to suggest a strategy at odds with what most Americans think is called for in Puerto Rico, tweeting that efforts to help the island need to be reconsidered, if not rolled back. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever,” he tweeted.
This follows weeks in which Puerto Rico’s recovery has been politicized, with Trump engaging in a public back-and-forth with the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, after the mayor criticizing the administration’s response. Trump tweeted back that Yulín Cruz lacked leadership.
Meanwhile, a slim majority of Americans, 52%, said they do not think the federal government is doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water, the poll found. The same number, 52%, said that the federal government’s response has been too slow, highlighting similar partisan splits.
More people also believe problems restoring basic services are more the fault of the federal government than the local Puerto Rican government. A plurality, 44%, said most of the blame for the problems with Puerto Rico’s recovery lies with the federal government, but 32% said it falls on the disorganization of the local government.
Americans are evenly divided on whether race and poverty are driving the slow response. Forty-six percent said things would be moving faster if Puerto Rico were a wealthier place with fewer Hispanic people. Forty-four percent said poverty and ethnicity have not affected the recovery. The responses to these questions were also largely split along party lines.
This Kaiser Family Foundation poll was conducted from Oct. 4-8 among 1,008 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/-4% pts. The poll followed a criticized event on October 4 in which Trump seemed to use Puerto Rico’s death toll as a talking point for the island’s recovery success. The total number who have died from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is still unknown, but the total has increased several times since the event.
FOX61’s Jeevan Vittal caught up with residents returning from Puerto Rico.