Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Polls show support for embargo, Cuba hardline is in minority

Polls show support for embargo, Cuba hardline is in minority
12/23/2014 8:41 PM 12/23/2014 9:32 PM

The polling is in: Cuban exile hardliners and Republicans are in the
clear minority nationwide when it comes to the embargo and
reestablishing ties with the island nation.

A raft of new surveys, taken after President Barack Obama announced
plans Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba, shows far more
Americans want the sanctions lifted and relations improved compared to
those who favor current U.S. policy — namely Republicans and many

But there's one aspect of U.S. Cuba policy that Cuban-Americans,
rank-and-file Republicans nationwide and Americans in general agree on:
Easing travel restrictions to the island.

The surveys are unwelcome — but not unexpected news — to embargo
supporters, mostly centered in South Florida where two potential
presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio,
have been outspoken about strengthening the embargo.

"We've found that the more information people learn about what happens
in Cuba, the more they are to support U.S. policy," said Mauricio
Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, the
nation's premier political action committee that supports the exile

"That's always been the challenge: Informing people," Claver-Carone
said. "We're a small community, yes, but we have a big megaphone."

And in America at large, Republicans' and the Cuban-American community's
attitudes about Cuba policy are decidedly in the minority, according to
a comparison of national polls from CNN/ORC International, Langer
Research/ABC-Washington Post, Reuters/Ipsos, CBS and a Bendixen & Amandi
International survey conducted last week for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo
Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Due to differences in methodology or forms of questions, the individual
polls differ from each other when it comes to topline results. But all
show a clear break between majority opinion and that of either Cuban
Americans or self-identified Republicans, some of whom might not be
actual voters.

Normalizing relations

ABC/Langer: Americans back it 64-31 percent; while the GOP is split
49-47 percent. "Very conservative" respondents' support was lacking,
36-61 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans support, 63-33 percent; while GOP support is split,
45-51 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans back it 45-22 percent, while GOP support is
31-38 percent. Reuters is the only online survey.

Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans oppose normalization,
48-44 percent, an inside-the-error margin tie in the poll of 400
Cuban-Americans. It showed Republican Cuban-Americans oppose it 79-11

CBS: Americans back it 54-28 percent. CBS did not provide political
party data. All the national polls surveyed about 1,000 people and have
an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. The Republican polling numbers
have a larger error margin.


ABC/Langer: Americans want it ended, 68-29 percent; while Republicans
want it ended 57-40 percent. But "very conservative" support is lowest
at 42-57 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want it ended, 55-40 percent; while Republicans want
it ended 44-52 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans want it ended, 40-26 percent; while Republicans
want it ended 28-41 percent.

Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want it discontinued,
44-40 percent; while Cuban-American Republicans wanted it to remain in
place, 70-18 percent.

Travel restrictions

ABC/Langer: Americans want them ended, 74-24 percent, with Republicans
at 64-33 percent and the "very conservative" at 51-47 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want them changed, 67-32 percent, with Republicans at
58-40 percent.

Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want them eased, 47-39
percent, with Republican Cuban-Americans oppose easing, 56-26 percent.

"The polls reflect what we've long seen coming," said Ric Herrero,
executive director of Cuba Now, a group that supports Cuba engagement.
"The American people have lost faith in the embargo and prefer
engagement as a means to promoting our values and interests."

However, there's a difference between public opinion in general and
political change — especially in Washington.

Foremost, the embargo is codified in federal law due to what's known as
the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which says Cuba will face sanctions as
long as it fails to free political prisoners and guarantee free speech,
workers' rights and free and fair elections. It would take an act of
Congress — a tall order in gridlocked Washington to change that,
especially now that both chambers will be controlled by Republicans, who
believe Obama has overstepped his authority anyway.

Rubio along with U.S. representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen — all Republicans — say they'll use their positions in
Congress to block efforts by Obama to fund his initiatives that would
make it easier for people to travel to Cuba, use U.S. bank cards there
or for the two countries to open consulates in each others' country.

Aside from their long held beliefs and ties to the exile community, the
Republican politicians' positions are also rooted in the polling showing
that their party voters are far more likely to oppose Obama's
initiatives concerning Cuba.

Gregory Holyk, a research analyst with Langer, said that his message to
Republicans toeing a softer line on Cuba would be "tread carefully."

'When you get down to who turns out in a Republican primary, that's
going to be a different group than Americans in general, one that's more
ideologically conservative," Holyk said. "I don't think this is a
make-or-break issue for any one candidate. But in Florida, it's a much a
touchier subject."

That has particular salience for Rubio and his newly established GOP
rival, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is also mulling a presidential bid
but broke from other Republicans in saying he supported Obama's moves on

Rubio then said Thursday on television that Paul "doesn't know what he's
talking about," leading Paul to fire back on Twitter and Facebook that
Rubio was an "isolationist."

On Sunday, Rubio responded on TV by blasting the "Obama-Paul" foreign
policy on Cuba, and Paul's office promptly hit back by criticizing the
"Rubio-Obama" foreign policy on fighting terrorism in the Middle East
and North Africa.

Paul extended on olive branch, of sorts, Tuesday by addressing Rubio on
Twitter: "Tempting to air a grievance @marcorubio again, but we've done
that enough for this week. Instead I will say an early Merry Christmas."

But Rubio didn't respond, though many conservative media outlets and
pundits sided with Rubio and criticized Paul.

"Rand Paul lost because he said the four things you cannot say as a
Republican: 'I agree with Obama,'" said Dario Moreno, a Florida
International University political science professor, pollster and ally
of Rubio's.

While Paul is right on shifting attitudes concerning Cuba, Moreno said
that having pro-embargo views is more in keeping with winning a
presidential primary in Florida, where most exiles live and vote in high

Moreno said his polling showed that the Cuban-American community was
changing in Miami-Dade in 2006, when Cuba was no longer a top five
issue. Still, he said, Cuba is an emotional issue with Cuban-Americans
and it's complicated to poll or understand — even for Moreno, who was
born in Cuba.

"I don't even know how I feel about this issue," Moreno said. "This is
far more complicated than black-and-white press accounts."

But, meanwhile, the polling is clear: The rest of the nation has moved
well beyond Cold War frozen relations, the U.S. embargo and travel
restrictions to Cuba.

Source: Polls show support for embargo, Cuba hardline is in minority |
The Miami Herald -

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