Poll: Cuban-Americans Shift in Favor of Normalizing U.S.-Cuba Relations

A new survey shows a majority of Cuban-Americans supporting President Obama's recent move on Cuba, after opposing it narrowly in December.

A bare majority of Cuban-Americans nationwide now support normalization of relations with Cuba, in the wake of President Obama's December move to restore diplomatic ties, according to a poll out Wednesday—but the community's support for specific moves on trade and other issues remains muddled.

Just over half, 51 percent, of Cuban-Americans polled by Bendixen & Amandi International in late March said they were in favor of normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba, while 40 percent disagreed. That marks a shift toward normalization over the past few months. The same polling group found that 48 percent of Cuban-Americans disagreed with Obama's new Cuba policy in December, compared with 44 percent who approved.

"What is pretty indisputable is there has been, in the three months' interval since the announcement of new policy, a greater degree of support from the Cuban-American community as opposed to increased opposition," said Fernand Amandi, a managing partner at the firm.

What's more, 56 percent support easing travel restrictions between the two countries. The respondents, most of whom were born in Cuba, live in Florida, and speak Spanish, also said they support trade between the U.S. and Cuba and want Cuban-Americans to be able to sell goods there. Yet a majority oppose lifting the American trade embargo.

"It's a political chip that they aren't willing to, in essence, cede to the Castro regime and Communist Cuba," Amandi said.

Only one-quarter of Cuban-Americans said they had plans to visit Cuba. Almost three-quarters said they wouldn't be interested in investing in Cuba should it become legal to do so, many citing mistrust of Havana or willful boycott of the Castro brothers.

Since the late 1990s, most of the American people have favored reestablishing diplomatic relations with Havana, according to Gallup. Cuban-Americans have long supported the embargo, but by smaller and smaller margins as the older generation of political exiles faded and new immigrants arrived. Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute found in November 2008 and May 2014 that Cuban-Americans in the Miami area were nominally opposed to the current embargo.

Supporters of normalization tend to be younger, American-born, and recent immigrants. More than 60 percent of those under the age of 50 and those born in the U.S. agreed with Obama's decision, while older, Cuban-born respondents showed more reticence toward helping Cuba.

Respondents living in Florida, where the Cuban-American population is concentrated, were less willing to endorse the policy shift, with only 41 percent agreeing with the White House. That's in stark contrast to the rest of the country, where Cuban-Americans agreed 3-to-1 that the United States and Cuba should share closer ties.

"If you get [recent Cuban immigrants] into the political process, these attitudes have a potential to actually change the political electoral landscape in Florida," said Florida International University professor Guillermo Grenier, a longtime pollster of Cuban-Americans in South Florida. "But all this survey does is support what we know—that there are changes, and they're being driven by demography."

Bendixen & Amandi surveyed 400 Cuban-American adults in English and Spanish, March 20-25. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.