By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
MIAMI (AP) _ For the first time, a majority of Cuban-Americans surveyed in Miami said they support an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba, according to a poll released Tuesday by Florida International University. Even more support resuming diplomatic relations with the communist island’s government.
Polls conducted by the university over the years have marked a steady evolution of Cuban-American views. Just a decade ago, electoral success in Miami hinged in part on candidates’ support for the embargo. Many political experts have blamed Democrat Al Gore’s crucial loss of Florida in 2000 at least partly on the Clinton administration’s policies and actions toward the island.
As recently as three years ago, more than half of all those interviewed for the poll still supported the embargo. But this year, even registered Cuban-Americans voters _ who tend to be older and take a harder line toward Cuba than more recent Cuba arrivals_ were nearly evenly divided on the embargo.
Tuesday’s survey of 1,000 Cuban-American Miami-Dade County residents is the latest in a series of polls the public university has conducted on the politically flammable issue of U.S.-Cuba relations since 1991.
Cubans who fled after the 1959 revolution have long backed the embargo. Yet Cubans who have arrived since the 1980s tend to have more contact with relatives on the island and see the embargo as an undue burden hampering their ability to help family still in Cuba. Second- and third generation Cuban-Americans also tend to support alternatives to the half century blockade and in general are less likely to cast their ballot based on the issue.
The poll could bolster recent efforts by influential Cuban-American business leaders, former U.S. officials and academics to push President Barack Obama to further loosen travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Most of those surveyed said they supported unrestricted travel by all Americans to Cuba. Right now, only Cuban-Americans with family on the island are free to easily travel there without obtaining a special visa.
It also may provide a measure of comfort to former Gov. Charlie Crist, who earlier this year announced his interest in visiting the country and his support for ending the embargo _ a stance that met with immediate derision from many political analysts. Democrat Crist is seeking to oust Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November. Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also came out against the embargo this month.
But those who see the latest poll as a sign Obama should make a drastic shift in policy should remain cautious. While a majority of registered Cuban-American voters surveyed said the U.S. and Cuba should resume diplomatic relations, nearly two-thirds want Cuba to remain on the United States’ list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
The poll was conducted using randomly selected cellphone numbers and landlines between February and May 2014. It had a margin of error of 3 percent and was conducted in Spanish and English.