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FIU Poll Of Miami Cubans Shows Strong Support For Obama Normalization Policy

Tim Padget
FIU sociology professor and pollster Guillermo Grenier describes the new Cuba Poll on Wednesday.

President Obama’s policy of normalizing relations with communist Cuba enjoys larger than expected support among Cubans in Miami-Dade County, according to a new poll.

Florida International University’s biannual Cuba Poll shows almost two-thirds, or 64 percent, of Miami-Dade’s Cuban cohort back normalization, which Obama announced in December 2014. Sixty-nine percent back last year’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Just as noteworthy is the share who oppose continuing the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba: 63 percent now oppose the embargo. That is the highest level of support for lifting the embargo since the FIU poll began in 1997. Most say the embargo has failed to create change on the island.

The numbers are even higher among younger Cubans: About three-fourths of those between the ages of 18 and 59 oppose the embargo, while 79 percent of Cubans who have arrived in the U.S. since 1995 do. Among Cuban registered voters in Miami-Dade, the share is 58 percent.

“These are undoubtedly the historical and demographic trends” among South Florida Cubans, said FIU sociology professor Guillermo Grenier, one of the pollsters. He told WLRN:

"You have the Obama Administration and the Cuban-American population realizing the embargo is not the right tool for the job they want done. They have different jobs in mind, but the embargo is filling nobody's need."

Jorge Duany, director of FIU's Cuban Research Institute, said the more recently arrived Cubans, like younger Cubans, are showing how strongly they now outnumber older and more hardline exiles.

The latest waves of Cuban migrants, Duany said, "are people who want to remain in touch relatives and friends in Cuba. So anything that helps increase that contact and engagement, that's what they will support."

About three-fourths of Miami-Dade Cubans also support lifting the remaining U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

Not surprisingly, 61 percent of Dade Cubans still support the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gives Cubans preferential immigration privileges. However, that is a 19-percentage-point drop from the 80 percent who backed the law in FIU’s 2014 poll. And 65 percent say the Adjustment Act should undergo changes.

While the share of Miami-Dade Cubans registered as Republicans has dropped to 53 percent, only 22 percent are Democrats. The most noticeable trend, said Grenier, is that more South Florida Cubans are shying away from both parties: A full quarter now identify as Independents.

That's also reflected in their presidential election preferences. While 35 percent favor GOP candidate Donald Trump and 31 percent  back Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 18 percent favor neither.

The poll, conducted largely by FIU's School of International and Public Affairs and its Cuban Research Institute, surveyed 1,000 randomly selected Cuban residents in Miami-Dade. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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