Pro-statehooders say Puerto Rico would benefit from becoming a state because it would receive an additional $20 billion a year in federal funds to boost the local economy and fight crime. The island currently has a higher unemployment rate than any U.S. state at 13.6 percent.

A status of sovereign free association would give Puerto Rico more autonomy and allow U.S. jurisdiction only in certain judicial matters. The details of the relationship would have to be agreed upon by the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments.

Puerto Rico also held non-binding referendums in 1967, 1993 and 1998, with statehood never garnering a clear majority and independence never obtaining more than 5 percent of the vote.

In a poll this month, local newspaper El Nuevo Dia found that a slim majority favored the current political status. On the second question, the preference for statehood topped sovereign free association. Few said they favor independence.

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Associated Press reporter Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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