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Poll: Cuban Americans losing faith with Republican Party; want end to Cuba embargo

Most Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County support ending the embargo, a new Florida International University poll found. The survey also showed that a quarter are now registered as Independents.
14 Sep 2016 – 11:46 AM EDT
U.S. and Cuban flags in Havana, Cuba. Crédito: Getty Images

A majority of Cuban Americans oppose the embargo on Cuba continuing a steady demographic trend away from traditional hardline views, a new Florida International University poll found.

The poll also found that 35% of Cuban Americans plan to vote for Trump, while 31% support Hillary Clinton, a bad sign for Florida Republicans in what is expected to be a close race in a key swing state. Cuban Americans used to be a bastion of Republican support in heavily Democratic South Florida.

Another 18% say they would vote for neither candidate, and 10% are still undecided.

The poll showed that close to two-thirds (63%) oppose the embargo, up from just 37% in 2000. The survey has a 3.1% margin of error.

"The fact that today, that number has continued to grow, and now 63% of Miami-based Cuban-Americans support lifting the embargo demonstrates just how far America has evolved on this issue," said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a lobbying group in favor of lifting the Cuba embargo, in a statement.

Newer arrivals more open to engagement

A majority also support the diplomatic opening with the island - which President Barack Obama announced in December 2014 - as well as increasing economic ties and removing travel restrictions. The pollsters attributed the shift in opinion to immigrants who arrived since 1995, who tend to be poorer, more racially diverse and more likely to support engagement than older arrivals.

Older, conservative exiles are "diminishing in number and influence," the pollsters said.

The poll also indicates that fewer Cuban Americans are registering as Republicans, and that Independents now make up the second largest party affiliation.

In the early 1990s, 70% of Cuban Americans were registered Republicans, and that number fell to 53% this year. Now, a quarter are Independents and another 22% are registered Democrats.

The poll was conducted between July 11 and August 12 among 1,000 Cuban American adults in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

Split political preferences

More than half of Cuban Americans who came to the U.S. before 1980 support Trump, and the GOP candidate has the most support among the 76 and older age group.

Meanwhile, nearly half of those who arrived after 1995 support Clinton. Almost 40% of respondents born in the U.S. support Clinton, versus 31% of those born in Cuba.

More Cuban Americans want to make travel and trade easier

Almost three-quarters of those between 18-59 oppose the embargo, and 58% of registered voters want the policy to end. More than half support increasing economic ties.

Many Cuban also favor making it easier to travel to Cuba. About 74% want to end travel restrictions, and support for unrestricted travel increased by almost 20 percentage points since 2000. In fact, close to half of Cuban Americans have traveled to the island since emigrating, the poll found.

Plus, 65% of registered voters consider political candidates' Cuba policy important to deciding their vote.

Majority open to tweaking Cuban immigration policy

Most Cuban Americans - 61% - still support the Cuban Adjustment Act, the law which allows Cubans to become permanent residents and receive government assistance after settling in the United States. Another 63% support the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allows migrants to stay in the United States as long as they aren't intercepted at sea.

However, support for the Cuban Adjustment Act has fallen since 2014, when 80% supported it. And this year's survey found that 65% support changing the law to require proof of political repression in order to become eligible for government assistance.

This year has seen a dramatic exodus of Cubans trying to reach the United States, both by rafts and across the U.S.-Mexico border. Some Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio, have recently questioned the Cuban Adjustment Act, noting that most Cubans leaving the island are not political refugees who instead cite economic reasons for leaving.