There’s an article in today’s Miami Herald about a new poll taken by FIU. The spin of the article, one which is not new to the Herald, that the Cuban exile community is not monolithic, that views are changing and that many Cubans aren’t as “intransigent” or “extreme” as they once were.
Well, I looked at the rest of the findings of the poll and wanted to report some things that were interesting to me that either weren’t mentioned in the Herald article or weren’t played up by it.
62.9% said that “major political change” would be coming to Cuba within the next 5 years.
Then there were a couple of questions about selling food and medicine to Cuba, which are largely moot points because the US currently does sell food and medicine to Cuba. In fact the US is the leading supplier of food to Cuba.
51.1% of the Cubans polled support a direct military action on the part of the US to overthrow the castro regime. The Herald characterizes this as a “narrow majority”, which it certainly is, but no such qualification was placed when they reported that, “The survey showed 55.2 percent of those polled favor ”unrestricted” travel to Cuba…” Needless to say that with a margin of error of +/- 3.2% that the difference between 51.1% and 55.2% could be negligible.
When it comes to allowing exiles to overthrow the regime, a solid majority (70.7%) are in favor.
96.2% of the respondents favor supporting human rights groups in Cuba. Now there isn’t really a policy question here, but the Herald did conduct a witch hunt recently about federal dollars spent on free Cuba activities. It would seem that there is still support for such efforts despite the waste and mismanagement that plagues those programs (and to be fair, many other federal programs).
65% favor establishing “a national dialogue among Cuban exiles, Cuban dissidents, and representatives of the Cuban government.” This will surely be latched onto by the dialogueros who constantly attack the hard-line exile community. But the question is so open-ended it’s hard to really judge what each respondent had in mind. Does this dialogue include fidel or raul castro? I’m pretty sure the responses would vary if that element were added to the question.
Regarding agricultural trade with Cuba, a solid majority (65.8%) want this kind of trade to stay the same or be stopped. So only 34.1% want to expand this kind of trade (i.e. soften the terms of such trade). In my opinion, most Cubans don’t want American companies or the taxpayers to get duped into paying deadbeat castro’s bills.
On the question of the embargo we see something that is common in polling, namely results that seem contradictory. Only 23.6% say the embargo has worked well or very well yet 57.5% favor keeping the embargo. Some possible explanations are that embargo supporters think the embargo is too weak and that’s why think it hasn’t worked. Or perhaps they feel that the embargo is the correct policy and that it doesn’t work because other countries haven’t joined the US in trying to isolate Cuba. And lastly perhaps they feel that the embargo is a symbolic policy which they support whether it works or not.
57.4% said they favor diplomatic relations with Cuba. This is largely a non-issue since both countries operate “interest sections” that act as embassies in the other country. The establishing of diplomatic relations would only serve as a symbolic recognition of the castro regime. In my opinion there is nothing to be gained by it. I would ask the question: “Do you believe the establishing of normal diplomatic relations with Cuba will be perceived as recognition of the Castro government as a legitimate government ?”
On when to end the embargo, only 28.6% said they want the embargo to end now. That jumps up to 36.9% if fidel were to die and 47.7% if both fidel and raul were to die. That means that 52.3% of the respondents only want the embargo to end when major political or economic reforms are implemented in Cuba:
End if free economy, even if no democracy 5.7%
End if democracy, even if [no] free economy 10.1%
Only end if both democracy and free economy 36.5%
There’s a question about where the respondent gets one’s news about Cuba and the internet is conspicuously absent as an answer choice.
Despite the fact that 76.6% of the respondents say they have close relatives in Cuba, 58.1% say that the current “restrictions on trade, travel, and communications with Cuba” have had no (52.7%) or small (5.4%) effect on them or their family members.
63% of the respondents have either never been to Cuba (if they were born outside) or have never been back since they left.
58.3% say they or “relatives in Miami” send money to relatives in Cuba. This question is little cloudy because it doesn’t merely ask about the respondent but about the respondent’s family members. Since Cubans, like most Hispanics consider their families to be larger than most anglos, a better question would have been. “Do you or anyone in your household send money to relatives in Cuba?” Then we would have had a better gauge of the incidence of the behavior. It’s hard to imagine many people who don’t know of a distant relative that sends money to Cuba.
Then there’s the standard question about returning to Cuba if a there were a democratic government there. As usual, the vast majority said they likely would not return to live permanently there. 70.3% to be exact. This is no surprise.
Only 18.3% of the respondents that are registered voters are Democrats. When compared to the 16.3% from a similar study conducted in 1991, we can see the myth of the ever-growing Cuban Democrat base is just that, a myth.
68.4% of the respondents say that “over the past year has the Bush administration” has doing better or about the same job in in dealing with Cuba? Only 31.6% say he’s doing a worse job.
Knowing what Cuban-Americans think about certain issues is good but the reality is that what’s important is what registered voters and likely voters think. After all we live in a representative democracy and though the politicians are responsible to everyone, they are accountable to voters who can choose to elect them or re-elect them.
REGISTERED VOTERS RESPONSES:
Support of direct U.S. military action to overthrow castro regime: 55.1%
Support of military action by exile community to overthrow castro regime: 69%
Agricultural trade with Cuba, kept the same or stopped: 71.8%
Unrestricted travel to Cuba should NOT be allowed: 57.7%
Favor the embargo: 65.6%
22.9% favor ending the embargo right now, 77.1% would require something else to happen (fidel and/or raul dying, or economic/political reforms) before lowering the embargo.
In summary, I’ll say this. The most important polls are the ones conducted every other November. The unflagging support that the 3 Republican representatives from South Florida have historically gotten is a testament to the opinions of the many Cuban-American voters living in their districts.
Opponents of the embargo (some of which are friends of the regime) are racheting up the propaganda campaign against the embargo for two reasons:
1. The castro regime is weak. When castro dies, the Venezuelan subsidy will be put in danger since many of the high level bureaucrats and raul himself are said to have a disdain for Hugo Chavez. Even if they maintain cordial relation with Chavez, his own position isn’t 100% secure. The regime needs to find other sources of revenue.
2. Embargo opponents think that the Democrat majority in congress will finally bring the embargo to an end, or perhaps weaken it significantly. But I’m pretty sure that any bill that weakens the embargo will be dead on arrival to the president’s desk. Democrats simply don’t have enough at stake in this debate to put a poison pill in a bill that the president would otherwise sign. So they will have to wait until January of 2009 until someone else occupies the White House. By that time this whole argument could be (and most likely will be) moot.