Poll: Cuban Americans supporting Obama’s moves

A new poll (granted, one by a pro-Democratic firm) suggests that a majority of Cuban-Americans support Barack Obama’s recent relaxation of restrictions on travel to Cuba: The survey said 64 percent of respondents favor Obama’s directive to lift all restrictions on remittances and visits by Cuban Americans to family in Cuba. Twenty-seven percent of respondents ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.

A new poll (granted, one by a pro-Democratic firm) suggests that a majority of Cuban-Americans support Barack Obama's recent relaxation of restrictions on travel to Cuba:

A new poll (granted, one by a pro-Democratic firm) suggests that a majority of Cuban-Americans support Barack Obama’s recent relaxation of restrictions on travel to Cuba:

The survey said 64 percent of respondents favor Obama’s directive to lift all restrictions on remittances and visits by Cuban Americans to family in Cuba. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they were opposed to the measure.

The telephone survey of 400 Cuban-American adults in Florida, New Jersey and other states was conducted in Spanish and English on April 15-16, days after Obama announced his administration would relax sanctions against Havana. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

”Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have seen anything near these numbers. Now it’s the reality of where the community is,” said Fernand Amandi, a pollster with Miami’s Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic firm that did the survey. “It’s unprecedented to suggest that the community for the first time is aligned with a Democratic president when it comes to Cuba policy.”

Perhaps more surprisingly, the respondents were evenly split on whether to continue the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which Obama has said he is not yet considering. 

On the other hand, if the attitudes of Cuban American voters are relaxing, it’s certainly not reflected in the stances taken by the politicians they represent. Cuban-American Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart last yesterday spoke before congress to denounce Obama’s performance at the Summit of the Americas:

"What the world witnessed at last weekend’s ‘Summit of the Americas’  was a culmination of years of preparation in the purchase and cultivation of advocates by Fidel Castro," said Diaz-Balart who called Castro a "psychopath and a serial killer." The goal of Castro advocates: "Mass American tourism with its billions of dollars a year and US trade financing, so that the US taxpayer ultimately bails out and bankrolls Fidel Castro."   

The pro-embargo old guard is not just confined to the GOP either. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez last month held up the confirmation of two of presidential science advisors over Obama’s planned Cuba policy changes.

The split rather seems to be generational, with second and third generation Cuban Americans more likely to support easing restrictions than first generation immigrants. A few politicians have tried to take advantage of the generational shift, but so far to no avail. With hardliner stalwarts like Florida’s Mel Martinez nearing retirment age, the next few election cycles should be interesting to watch.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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