Majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, poll finds

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
3 PHOTOS
Cuba-US relations
See Gallery
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)
HIDE CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW 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)

20 PHOTOS
Fidel Castro public appearance
See Gallery
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)
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)
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 visits New York Fidel Castro waves to crowd outside Statler Hotel. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
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)
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)
Fidel Castro visits New York. Castro & Dr. Grayson Kirk, pres. of Columbia University. (Photo By: John Duprey/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
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)
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)
HIDE CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners