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  • Submitted by: lena campos
  • 02 / 12 / 2014

After more than a half-century of official United States hostility toward Cuba punctuated by a comprehensive trade embargo, a majority of Americans — and an even greater majority of Floridians, home to this country’s largest Cuban-American population — now favor normalizing relations or engaging more directly with the Cuban government, according to a nonpartisan survey.

The results of the survey, commissioned by the Atlantic Council, a prominent Washington research institution, and released on Tuesday, were described by the group as an unprecedented reflection of shifting American attitudes toward Cuba that confound some long-held assumptions, particularly about Cuban-American antipathy toward the government of Raúl Castro.

The results also come against a backdrop of increasing sentiment in Florida and elsewhere that the American economic and political isolation of Cuba, one of the most enduring elements of United States foreign policy, not only has failed to satisfy its purpose of unseating the Castro government but may even be helping to perpetuate it.

“This survey shows that the majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle are ready for a policy shift,” Peter Schechter and Jason Marczak, the top two executives at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council, wrote in an introduction to the survey. “Most surprisingly, Floridians are even more supportive than an already supportive nation to incrementally or fully change course.”

While the survey showed that Americans have concerns about the Cuban government’s political repression, Mr. Schechter and Mr. Marczak said, they “recognize the need for alternatives in light of the failure of the current policy to achieve its objective.”

The survey found that 56 percent of respondents nationwide favor changing Cuba policy, a majority that jumps to 63 percent among Florida adults and 62 percent among Latinos nationwide. While support is strongest among Democrats and independents, the survey showed 52 percent of Republicans also favor normalization.

Narrower surveys have also shown that increasing numbers of Floridians want normalized relations with Cuba, but Mr. Schechter and Mr. Marczak said they believed their survey was the first to show that Florida leads the nation in that regard.

The survey found that the economic cost to the United States of maintaining the trade embargo with Cuba, a nation of 11 million, was a major reason a majority want to normalize ties. More than six in 10 respondents nationwide want the policy changed to enable American companies to do business in Cuba and permit Americans unfettered freedom to travel and spend money there.

Fifty-two percent also said Cuba should be deleted from the United States government’s list of countries that are considered state sponsors of terrorism, the others being Iran, Syria and Sudan. The designation automatically restricts the type of trade and other interactions Americans can have with Cuba. Although the Obama administration has loosened some of the restraints on travel and the ability of Cuban-Americans to send money to Cuba, most types of trade and investment are forbidden.

Conducted by telephone and cellphone in English and Spanish from Jan. 7 to Jan. 22, the survey was based on responses from 1,024 randomly selected adults, with oversamples of 617 Florida residents and 525 Latinos. The nationwide margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points; for Florida residents and for Latinos it was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey was done by a partnership of Paul Maslin, a Democratic public opinion expert, and Glen Bolger, a leading Republican political strategist and pollster.

The American policy aimed at ostracizing Cuba is widely viewed around the world as an irrelevant throwback to the Cold War era. Just on Monday, the European Union agreed to begin negotiations with Cuba to increase investment and trade.


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