by Jim Lobe
According to a new survey released by the Bendixen & Amandi International polling firm on Thursday, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are increasingly out of touch with the larger Cuban-American community with respect to Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Havana and ask Congress to end the half-century-old trade embargo against the island.
The poll, which interviewed 400 Cuban Americans around the country, was released on the one-year anniversary of Obama’s announcement that he was normalizing ties between the two countries, which were severed in 1961.
Key findings include:
- A significant 56% majority of Cuban-American adults now support the policy of normalization—a remarkable 12-point increase compared to just a year ago.
- A 53% majority of Cuban-American adults favor the ending of the U.S. embargo towards Cuba. That was a 9-percent increase compared to a year ago. Two thirds (66%) of respondents aged 18-49 (Rubio’s cohort) favor ending the embargo.
Although this blog focuses primarily on U.S. policy toward the Middle East and related issues, the poll is worth noting in major part because it suggests that Obama’s policy of engaging perceived adversaries, such as Cuba and Iran, may actually offer a political pay-off. Of course, one can’t make too much of this given the huge differences between Cuba and Iran (size, distance, familiarity with the two countries’ cultures). But it’s nonetheless a hopeful sign for those who favor engagement over overt and permanent hostility (read Rubio and Cruz).
The survey found significant demographic and political differences among the respondents. Support for Obama’s normalization and ending the embargo, for example, was concentrated among U.S.-born Cuban Americans and Cuban-born Americans who arrived during or after the 1980 Mariel boatlift. Unsurprisingly, younger respondents were significantly more likely to favor Obama’s efforts than older respondents, particularly among those who were born in Cuba and arrived here before 1980. Self-identified Republicans were, unsurprisingly, also much more likely to identify with the hard-line stances of both Rubio and Cruz.
Asked about Obama’s decision to normalize ties with Havana, 52% of Cuban-American respondents living in Florida said they agreed with it, while 63% of Cuban Americans living elsewhere in the U.S. agreed. Similarly, 56% of Cuban Americans living outside of Florida said they had a favorable impression of Obama’s Cuba policy, while only 41% of respondents in Florida agreed (a 50% plurality said they had an unfavorable impression).
Nonetheless, 52% of respondents said that they would oppose a trip to Cuba by Obama during the remainder of his term, a possibility that Obama has endorsed on condition that he be permitted to meet with opposition figures.
The survey was conducted December 14-16.
Photo: Cuban President Raul Castro meets with President Obama.