Posted on Wednesday, 12.03.08
Miami-Dade poll sees shift in opinion over Cuba embargo
A survey of Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade showed that the majority favor
a lifting of the trade embargo.
By LIZA GROSS
In an unprecedented shift in attitude that could affect Cuba policy for
the incoming administration of Barack Obama, more than one out of two
Miami-Dade Cuban Americans think the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba
should end, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
The poll, conducted by Florida International University's Institute for
Public Opinion Research and funded by the Brookings Institution and the
Cuba Study Group, indicates that 55 percent of those polled favor
discontinuing the trade embargo imposed in 1962. Sixty-five percent
favor reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
''The poll has an extraordinary historical importance,'' said Guarione
Díaz, president of the Cuban American National Council, a nonpartisan
advocacy group in Miami.
The results, particularly as they relate to the embargo, reflect ''the
fact that the Cuban Americans who were born in the United States or left
after 1980 do not have the same vision as those who came in the 60s,''
Ninoska Pérez, director of the conservative Cuban Liberty Council,
dismissed the results.
''I am tired of these polls that mean nothing,'' she said. “The point
is that three Congress members who support the embargo were elected by
an overwhelming majority of the people. The reelection of these Congress
members tells me that this sample is not a majority. I don't believe
The embargo question has been consistent since FIU began conducting the
poll in 1991. Beginning in 1997, the trend showed a gradual decrease of
support for maintaining the embargo. But this year's poll is the first
to show a majority in favor of lifting it. In 2007, 42 percent of those
polled were in favor of ending the trade ban.
''It's a significant jump,'' said Hugh Gladwin, director of the
Institute for Public Opinion Research at FIU.
''I'd give two explanations. The first one is that there's been this
continuing demographic change. The other factor is the election of
Obama. There's a process of change. People see the handwriting on the
wall,'' he added.
Respondents included registered and nonregistered voters.
Support for the embargo remained strong among Cuban-American registered
voters. A majority, 56 percent, said they support continuing it.
Carlos Pascual, vice president for Foreign Policy at the centrist
Brookings Institution in Washington, said the results indicate a new
perspective “in what is going to result in a favorable policy change
''There is an awareness that change will not come from the outside but
from the empowerment and strengthening of the Cuban people so that they
can change their own future,'' he said. “Punishment as a strategy has
not been effective.''
Pascual said the desire on the part of Cuban Americans to help their
relatives on the island means that “family and politics are starting to
come together in a way that will affect policy.''
The question on reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba appears
for the first time in this year's poll, which was conducted shortly
after the U.S. presidential election. The survey, conducted by phone,
measured responses of 800 Cuban Americans who live in Miami-Dade and has
a 3.6 percent margin of error.
Pascual said the result in favor of reestablishing diplomatic relations
with Cuba will give Obama greater political flexibility domestically as
he crafts his Cuba policy, particularly because 52 percent of those
polled are Republican.
''The way that Cuban Americans are looking at policy is change through
engagement, not isolation. That coincides with Obama's general approach
to global affairs and what he has said about Cuba,'' Pascual said.
The poll also measured attitudes on U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba,
which were tightened to reduce the amount of money and goods sent to
relatives on the island and limits family visits to once every three years.
Sixty-six percent were in favor of ending current travel restrictions to
Cuba for Cuban Americans and 65 percent were in favor of ending current
restrictions on remittances to Cuba for Cuban Americans.
Gladwin said that what those polled want “is the government to engage
with Cuba and figure this thing out.''