While a majority of Cuban Americans in South Florida disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of key issues, a majority of new arrivals from Cuba rate his overall performance extremely favorably, according to a poll released Tuesday by Florida International University.
“Newer arrivals have a more liberal way of looking at social needs,” said Guillermo Grenier, the survey's lead investigator and a professor of sociology at FIU.
But Grenier said he has seen this previously in FIU Cuba Polls, which have been conducted since 1991. Cuban Americans in time become integrated into the U.S. political landscape in an “organic way” by identifying with the political party of their relatives and the messaging they see on television and radio, Grenier said.
Among all Cuban Americans polled, 32% gave Biden a positive job approval. His numbers were higher among Cuban American Democrats (73%) and newest arrivals (64%), as well as to a lesser extent older Cuban Americans.
In his 2012 re-election bid, President Barack Obama won a majority of the Cuban American vote while President Donald Trump won in 2016 and 2020.
Florida Democrats have been saying for years that they have limited resources to focus on outreach as Republicans have gained ground among Cuban Americans and other Latino voters.
According to the poll, an estimated 52% of registered Cuban American voters in Florida are Republican, 21% are Democrats and 27% are "other." Democrats do better among other Hispanics in the state, with an estimated 41% registered Democrats and 16% Republican. But "other" still leads both parties, at 43%.
Recent waves of Cuban immigrants who eventually become voters “are adding energy” to the Republican Party, the poll found, while the Democratic Party has made little headway attracting this group over the past few years.
Around 64% of all respondents said they would vote for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, both Republicans. Cuban Americans not born on the island expressed less support for them (44% for DeSantis, 45% for Rubio).
While most disapprove of Biden’s performance, a strong majority support his handling of the pandemic.
Former President Donald Trump is still going strong among Cuban Americans, with 37% saying they would like to see him on the ballot for the 2024 presidential race, while 21% said they would prefer DeSantis.
The poll noted the influence of social media and "influencers" on political messaging and asked respondents where they get information about Cuba. Almost 4 in 10 (37%) said they got information from social media sources, including 54% of the youngest respondents and 47% of recent arrivals from Cuba.
Support for Biden's Cuba measures — but not support for Biden on Cuba
Some of the changes the Biden administration has made on Cuba policy have had strong support — yet only 28% said they approve of the president’s handling of U.S.-Cuba policy.
“Our opinions are very ambivalent. We can go different ways to arrive at a feeling that we’re changing the situation,” said Grenier. “It’s really up to political leadership to design the way that we’re going to go.”
Resuming full immigration services at the U.S. embassy in Havana was supported by the vast majority of respondents. The Biden administration also announced steps to resume visa processing, which the Trump administration had shut down, and the Family Reunification Program.
There was also strong support (71%) for the Biden administration's move to lift Trump-era restrictions on U.S. airlines flying to airports outside Havana. A slight majority also support no restrictions on the amount of remittances that Cuban Americans can send to the island.
“Cuban Americans are willing to put out a carrot for the Cuban government in hopes that it will change," Grenier said. "But at the same time, they’re also willing to wield a stick like they’ve been doing for decades."
In terms of U.S. policy toward Cuba, many of the poll's findings were similar to the last poll conducted in 2020. Almost 7 in 10 (68%) Cuban Americans said the decadeslong embargo against Cuba hasn't worked.
Yet 63% of those polled say they support continuing it, whereas in 2016, after Obama’s historic opening of relations with Cuba, only 36% of Cuban Americans in 2016 supported continuing the embargo and 63% preferred to end it.
“Cuban Americans are willing to follow leadership in many directions,” said Grenier. “Everybody wants change in Cuba, and the fact that it’s so difficult to achieve has given the population this carrot-and-stick approach.”
A majority of Cuban Americans (55%) consider Cuba to be a threat to vital American interests, except for those who are registered Democrats, new arrivals or were born outside Cuba.
Despite the current support for the embargo, around 64% of respondents said they support the sale of food to Cuba in an unrestricted way, and 72 percent said the sale of medicine from the U.S. should also be unrestricted.
“It has to do with family ties,” said Grenier. “You have an ambivalence.”
Ahead of the midterms, Cuban Americans identified the economy, health care, immigration, and Cuba policy as top issues.
The FIU Cuba poll surveyed 1,000 Cuban Americans in Miami Dade County from July 27 to September 11. Over 40% of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.