Opinions about the Cuba embargo have hardened since former President Barack Obama restored relations with the island’s government in 2015.
According to the FIU poll, 51% favor maintaining the embargo, while 49% oppose it, compared to 54% support for ending the embargo in the last FIU poll in 2016, according to the pollsters, FIU professors Guillermo Grenier and Hugh Gladwin.
That represents a significant reversal after decades of Cuban American opinion softening on the embargo. It also appears to be a rejection of Cuba’s hardline response to Obama’s opening, including the recent health incidents suffered by U.S. diplomats in Cuba which resulted in a drastic staffing cuts.
“The retrenchment might be driven by the slow pace of change on the island, even while the old-guard leadership fades, or by the hostile national narrative that currently surrounds U.S.-Cuba relations in the United States,” according to John F. Stack, dean of FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs in a forward to the poll.
After taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump reversed course and imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as sanctions against businesses run by the Cuban military, including hotels, bars and restaurants run by the Cuban military.
“Relations between the two countries since the last poll have not followed the path of engagement established by Obama,” he added. “While few of the specific policies initiated during the presidency of Obama have been replaced, the ‘sonic incidents’ reported by U.S. embassy personnel in Havana on August 2017, unleashed a series of reactions from the Trump administration … relations between the two countries have become icy at best.”
FIU has conducted polls of Cuban Americans in Miami since the 1990s. The 2018 poll was carried out after the midterm elections in November. The telephone poll surveyed 1,000 people and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
An overwhelming majority of more than 80% of Cuban Americans polled agreed the embargo has not worked.
Support for the embargo increased especially among the so-called historic exiles who emigrated from 1959 to 1979, rising by more than 10% compared to the 2016 poll. Meanwhile 65% of those under 40 oppose the embargo.
“ Cuban Americans continue to welcome and support many of the changes in U.S. policy since December 2014, such as travel, the maintenance or expansion of limited economic relations and the willingness to allow U.S. citizens to invest in Cuban businesses,” the survey’s authors wrote. “Yet, there is a retrenchment of old, less conciliatory positions by the old, less conciliatory segments of the community.”
Although 57% of the Cuban Americans polled still support the elimination of restrictions on travel by U.S. residents to the island, that support is also down significantly from 74% in 2016. A wide majority, 68%, of respondents favored maintenance of the existing business relations with Cuba, such as allowing U.S. companies to sell food and medicine to Cuba.
The reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba was endorsed by a broad majority, 63 percent.
Forty percent of the Cuban Americans in Miami polled said they send remittances to relatives and friends in Cuba, and 43% said they had traveled to Cuba at least once.
The poll’s authors said 52% supported the Obama administration’s decision to end the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who arrived without visas to remain legally in the country.