Majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, poll finds

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, poll finds
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission of #454753083 with alternate crop.) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over 60 heads of state have travelled to South Africa to attend a week of events commemorating the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mr Mandela passed away on the evening of December 5, 2013 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for his activism against apartheid in a racially-divided South Africa. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over 60 heads of state have travelled to South Africa to attend a week of events commemorating the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mr Mandela passed away on the evening of December 5, 2013 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for his activism against apartheid in a racially-divided South Africa. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, as it rains during a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa. Fidel Castro says his brother Raul introduced himself to Obama in English, telling him, "Mr. President, I'm Castro," as the two leaders shook hands. The Dec. 10 handshake set off speculation in the U.S. and Cuba about whether it signaled a warming of ties between the two nations after decades of animosity. U.S. and Cuban officials dismissed that, calling the handshake a mere courtesy. (AP Photo/File) SOUTH AFRICA OUT
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By David Adams

(Reuters) - A strong majority of Americans - and an even greater percentage of Floridians - support normalizing relations with Cuba, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

In an apparent boost to efforts to end the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba, the poll found that 56 percent of respondents nationally favored changing U.S. Cuba policy, a number that rose to 63 percent when just counting Florida residents.

Supporters of the embargo said the poll was politically biased, questioned its methodology and said it was unlikely to have any impact in Washington.

The poll comes on the back of a series of surprise political announcements in recent days that could challenge longstanding U.S. policy towards the communist-run island.

On Friday, Florida's former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is running for the office again in November - this time as a Democrat - said in a TV interview that he supports lifting the embargo.

Also last week, Alfonso Fanjul, a wealthy Cuban American sugar baron in Florida and a major political donor, spoke publicly for the first time about trips he has made to the island in an interview with the Washington Post, and his interest one day in investing there.

The poll, conducted by a Republican and a Democratic pollster, found that only 35 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of Floridians, opposed improving ties with Cuba.

"Given the results of the survey, it is clearly time to take another look at U.S.-Cuba policy. There has been a surge in thinking about whether it's working," said Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

The results in Florida show conventional wisdom about U.S. policy towards Cuba may need to be reconsidered.

Political commentators often note that U.S. presidential candidates support a hard line on Cuba out of fear of losing the swing state of Florida.

"We may have crossed the Rubicon with this poll," said U.S. Senator, Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona and longtime opponent of the embargo.

"This tells us that Floridians by a greater percentage than the rest of the country want to see changes to the policy, so there's really no reason not to move ahead now politically," he added.

POLITICAL AGENDA

Supporters of the embargo accused the Atlantic Council of having a political agenda, as well as poor methodology.

"The entire release is biased and agenda-driven," Mauricio Claver-Carone, head of the largest Cuban exile lobby group in Washington, said in reference to the Atlantic Council's announcement of the survey.

"They didn't ask if they were voters. In other words, it's not a poll of 'likely voters' or 'registered voters'."

Claver-Carone, director of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, said proponents of ending the embargo lacked the votes in Congress, or the financial backing to effectively lobby to change the law.

"The fact remains every single Cuban-American elected official, in any position, in Miami-Dade County supports the embargo. So the facts speak for themselves," he added.

Officials from both countries have told Reuters that U.S.-Cuban relations have taken on a more pragmatic tone in recent months, with cooperation on drug interdiction, oil-spill mitigation and immigration.

President Barack Obama told a Miami fundraiser in November "we have to continue to update our policies" on Cuba, but he has withheld using his executive power since last easing rules on travel to Cuba and the flow of remittances in 2011.

Obama cannot lift the economic embargo without the support of Congress, where there is serious opposition from both parties.

The poll showed some ambivalence among those surveyed when they were reminded of the state of human rights in Cuba, where dissent and freedom of speech are inhibited.

When told that changing U.S. policy would send a message to Iran or North Korea that they can act against American interests, 51 percent found it very or somewhat convincing.

The poll - conducted over the phone in English and Spanish from January 7 to January 22 - surveyed 1,024 randomly selected U.S. adults age 18 and older, with disproportionate numbers of Florida residents and Latinos, the council said.

It had a nationwide margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, the council said. In Florida the margin of error was plus or minus 4.0 percent.

The Atlantic Council bills itself as a non-partisan research institution that promotes "constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs." Chief Executive Frederick Kempe is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor, and the council's honorary directors include recent secretaries of state and national security advisers.

Its findings provided a timely boost to Crist, who said in an TV interview on Friday that he doesn't think the embargo has worked.

"If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there," he said later in a statement.

Crist, who currently leads in early polling, is the first candidate for governor from either major party to endorse lifting the embargo, a position that has long been considered politically risky in Florida due to Miami's large Cuban American population.

His Cuba comments were pounced upon by Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott who insisted on that Floridians still support the embargo, saying it "stands for the Cuban people's right to be free."

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

Majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, poll finds
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, makes a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
In this frame grab of video released by Cubavision, Cuba's former President Fidel Castro attends the inauguration of the cultural center, Studio Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art, in Havana, Cuba, late Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Castro made his first public appearance in nine months after last appearing in public in April 2013, when he attended the inauguration of Havana school. (AP Photo/Cubavision via APTN)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro (C) and his wife Dalia Soto (L) during the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
A screenshot of Cuba's website Cubadebate shows a photo of Fidel Castro with the head of the main Cuban student union Randy Perdomo Garcia in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday Feb. 3, 2015. Cuba has published the first photos of Fidel Castro in five months, showing the 88-year-old former leader engaged in conversation with Perdomo Garcia. A first-person account by the student leader says the meeting took place on Jan. 23. The photos published around midnight on Monday are the first images of the revolutionary leader since a set of photos came out in August showing him talking with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.(AP Photo)
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, visiting the U.S., takes a good sized bite of hot dog during a trip to New York's Bronx Zoo April 24, 1959. Hot dogs are not unknown to Cuba, but are not nearly as common as they are in the U.S. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
Cuban leader Fidel Castro feeds elephants at the Bronx Zoo during a visit to New York City, April 1959. (Photo by Meyer Liebowitz/New York Times/Getty Images)
Fidel Castro, Cuban Premier, meets former baseball star Jackie Robinson at a luncheon of the Overseas Press Club at Hotel Astor in New York, April 23, 1959. The Cuban leader, on a five day visit to New York, has said that he's a baseball fan. Robinson, former Brooklyn Dodger star, is now a New York executive. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro takes a draw at his long cigar, a special brand he brought along, as he talks with newsmen outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, April 16, 1959. The 32-year-old Cuban Prime Minister, in Washington on an unofficial visit, is wearing his major's uniform. (AP Photo/William J. Smith)
Vice President Richard Nixon and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro leave Nixon's office in Washington, D.C., April 19, 1959, after a two hour and 20 minute chat behind closed doors. The meeting had been listed on Castro's program as a 15 minute visit. In answer to a question, Castro said the meeting had been "very friendly." (AP Photo)
News and film photographers line sidewalk as bearded Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, right, strides to un headquarters in New York April 22, 1959. He was on his way to visit un Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. Men with Castro at right are unidentified. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
Fidel Castro visits New York Fidel Castro waves to crowd outside Statler Hotel. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader shown during a visit to Washington D.C., USA in April 1959. (AP Photo)
Cuban Premier Fidel Castro is pictured at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 16, 1959. (AP Photo)
Cuban Premier Fidel Castro places a wreath at the tombs of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, April 20, 1959, as he continues his Washington visit. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
Fidel Castro visits New York. Fidel Castro outside Statler Hotel. (Photo By: Dan Farrell/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Cuba's Premier Fidel Castro and his Foreign Minister, Dr. Raul Roa, tune in the President's speech at United Nations. Later, Castro told reporters he has invited Khrushchev to visit Cuba. (Photo By: Frank Hurley/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: During a visit to the United States, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel CASTRO (left) meets with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel NASSER New York before CASTRO's departure for Havana (Cuba). (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
FILE- This Spet. 20, 1960 file photo shows Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, and Cuban President Fidel Castro, center, outside the Hotel Theresa in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Castro was staying at the hotel during his first visit to the United Nations after coming to power. The famed Hotel Theresa closed in 1967. The building where it was located, at 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, was later designated a city landmark and is now an office building. The hotel was called the "Waldorf of Harlem," hosting celebrities from Louis Armstrong to Fidel Castro. (AP Photo/FILE)
**FILE** Cuba's Fidel Castro is escorted by Massachusetts State Police as he walks to an airplane at Logan Airport in Boston, Mass., for a flight to Montreal, Canada, in this April 26, 1959 file photo. The Cuban leader, was in Boston to speak at the Harvard Law School forum last night, was under heavy police guard during his visit as authorities fearedf a possible assassination. The U.S. government believes Castro's health is deteriorating and that the Cuban dictator is unlikely to live through 2007. (AP Photo/File)
Captain Heinrich Lorenz, left, of cruise ship MS Berlin, proposes a toast to the success of Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba, April 15, 1954, Havana, Cuba. Castro visited the North German Lloyd ship after it landed in Havana from New York. (AP Photo)
Construction worker Bernhard Berntsen of Brooklyn greets Cuban Premier Fidel Castro as the latter emerged from a visit at the New York coffee and sugar exchange April 24, 1959. Berntsen, of 1114 84th street, Brooklyn, told Castro he’d done “a good job.” Berntsen said he encouraged Castro with an Old Norwegian expression, “when you’re heading the right way, keep on the right road.” (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro gives speech at New York airport
UNITED STATES - APRIL 01: The new strongman in Cuba, Fidel CASTRO, speaking to American journalists during a press conference in New York. His visit to the United States came soon after his overthrow of BATISTA and his taking power in Cuba (January 1959). He was received by Richard NIXON in Washington on April 15. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Cuba’s Prime Minister Fidel Castro points up a remark, as he is surrounded by newsmen at a downtown hotel oApril 16, 1959, following a luncheon meeting with Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter. Members of the Cuban revolutionary movement, wearing fatigue hats, are behind the bearded Prime Minister. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro visits New York. Castro & Dr. Grayson Kirk, pres. of Columbia University. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A press conference in Fidel Castro?s Havana Office, on June 23, 1961 gives Cuba?s Fidel Castro a chance to make the most of his photogenic face and gestures and he does make the most of it was he point to a finger close to his face, comes up to scratch as he thinks of an answer, and smiles broadly, shaking his cigar-holding hand as he comes up with it. Associated press staff photographer Robert Schitz, who went to Havana for the tractors-for-captives negotiations, also made the most of the conference. (AP Photo/Robert Schultz )
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro meets with U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, right, at United Nations headquarters in New York, April 22, 1959. At center is Cuba's ambassador to the U.N. Manuel Bisbe. Castro is in New York during his tour of the U.S. (AP Photo/John Rooney)
** FILE ** In this April 1961 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro jumps from a tank as he arrives at Giron, Cuba, near the Bay Of Pigs. On April 17-19, 1961, the beach was the stage for one of the most memorable chapters in the struggle between Washington and Havana: the invasion of Cuba by a CIA-trained band of armed exiles. Cuba will celebrate on Jan. 1, 2009 the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution. (AP Photo/Bohemia Magazine, File)
Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014. Putin began a Latin American tour aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region with a stop Friday in Cuba, a key Soviet ally during the Cold War that has backed Moscow in its dispute with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)
Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014. Putin began a Latin American tour aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region with a stop Friday in Cuba, a key Soviet ally during the Cold War that has backed Moscow in its dispute with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro attending the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
Still grab from a video taken on January 8, 2014 of former Cuban president Fidel Castro arrives for the inauguration of the nonprofit cultural centre Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art in Havana. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in nine months, attending an art gallery opening near his home, the local press reported Thursday. The Cuban leader, who relinquished the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006 due to illness, last appeared in public in April when he opened a Havana school. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read --/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks at the camera during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks closely at an art piece during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Cubans cheer as Fidel Castro leaves after making a rare public appearance attending the inauguration of an art gallery, on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, looks closely at an art piece during a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 08: Fidel Castro, Cuba's former President and revolutionary leader, makes a rare public appearance to attend the inauguration of an art gallery on January 8, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. Castro, who ceded power to his brother Raul Castro in 2008 after falling ill in 2006, has last been seen in public in February 2013 at a National Assembly meeting. The gallery Castro visited is run by Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, aka Kcho. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photo/Getty Images)
In this photo released by Cubadebate, Cuba's former President Fidel Castro, bottom, back to camera, attends the inauguration of the cultural center, Studio Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art, in Havana, Cuba, late Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Cuban news media say Castro appeared in public for the first time since April. The official website Cubadebate carried this photo of the event, though it does not show his face. (AP Photo/Cubadebate, Alex Castro)
P 361115 011 16Nov99 Havana, Cuba Fidel Castro Addresses Youth Attendees Of The Ibero-American Summit In Havana (Photo By Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Bayamo, CUBA: (FILES) Cuban President Fidel Castro checks the weather by looking at the sky, as he delivers a speech on July 26th, 2006, at the Plaza de la Patria square in Bayamo, in the province of Granma, during a ceremony marking the 53rd anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks. Next 26 July, 2007 marks the first anniversary of Fidel Castro falling ill, for what he later underwent intestinal surgery and had to hand over power to his brother Raul. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE TO GO WITH AFP STORY (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Fidel Castro during a news conference in Havana, Aug. 5, 1978. (AP Photo)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Read Full Story

People are Reading

The Latest from our Partners
1 - 3 of 15