1. Why is a think tank conducting a political poll?
As a fresh, non-partisan voice in the Latin American policy scene, the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center is dedicated to exploring the growing interconnection among countries of the Western Hemisphere. With more than 80 percent growth in trade in the last decade, Latin America is the fastest-growing regional trade partner of the United States. We recognize that the US-Cuba relationship has been a third rail of American foreign policy in Latin America, but the sensitivity of the issue should not prevent thought leaders from reexamining it in light of an ever-changing regional environment. The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center aims to play a leading role in furthering such a dialogue by presenting an unbiased assessment of American public opinion toward Cuba.
2. What is the current status of the US-Cuba relationship?
Since 1961, the United States has had no diplomatic relations with Cuba and restricts trade and travel with Cuba for the vast majority of American citizens and American businesses.
3. How was the poll conducted?
In January 2014, polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Metz, and Associates (FM3) surveyed 1,000 respondents from across the United States via phone. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from January 7 to January 22, 2014, with a nationwide margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent (Florida, +/-4.0 percent and Latinos, +/-4.4 percent) at the 95 percent confidence interval. Respondents were interviewed on landlines and cell phones. In addition to a benchmark sample of 1,024 randomly-selected US adults age 18 and over, the survey includes additional oversamples with notable results from the 617 Florida residents and the 525 Latinos interviewed. A bipartisan polling team of Paul Maslin and Glen Bolger conducted the survey.
4. Who conducted the poll?
A veteran team of bipartisan pollsters assisted the Atlantic Council in organizing and conducting this poll. Paul Maslin
of FM3 is one of the leading observers of public opinion and campaign strategists in the country. After a decade in Washington, DC, where he advised six presidential candidates, a dozen US senators, and scores of governors, mayors and members of Congress, Maslin moved to California in 1989. In 1992, he joined Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3).
Mr. Maslin has personally helped win many key campaigns in both California and across the country in the past decade. In 2003–2004, he was the pollster and one of the key strategists in Howard Dean's groundbreaking run for president, which opened new venues for grassroots organizing and fundraising. He worked for Governor Bill Richardson in his 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Maslin has also advised US Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, and Mayors Bill White of Houston, Tom Menino of Boston, and Tom Barrett of Milwaukee. He was a key strategist in all the campaigns from 1998–2003 of former Governor Gray Davis of California.Glen Bolger
is a partner and cofounder of Public Opinion Strategies and is one of the Republican Party's leading political strategists and pollsters. Bolger is the only pollster to be a threetime winner of the "Republican Pollster of the Year" award. In 2010, Glen served as pollster for the successful campaigns of five senators, one governor, and twenty-seven members of Congress. In addition, Glen served as the pollster for seven successful major statewide Independent Expenditure campaigns, as well as the largest Independent Expenditure in the congressional races, working in seventy-six congressional races, including fortynine of the seats Republicans took away from
Overall, Glen polled in fifty-three of the sixty-three Republican pick-up districts. Glen's corporate polling experience includes crisis management polling for some of the top issues in recent years, as well as image and message work for major clients such as Wal-Mart, Bank of America, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, Tyson Foods, BNSF Railway, Catholic Health Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and numerous Fortune 500 companies.
5. What is the main takeaway?
A clear majority of Americans are ready for a change to U.S. policy towards Cuba: 56% percent polled support re-engagement. That figure increases when asked about changing specific elements of the embargo such as the travel ban and the financial blockade. There is already a base of support across the country for normalization: with more information provided about the state of the relationship, support grows. Hispanic Americans are two to one in favor of normalization.
Most significantly, respondents in Florida, a state with the most awareness of the nuances in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, lead the nation with 63% support for normalization and 65% for accelerating change on all individual parts of the embargo. In a stark change to the narrative we are used to hearing about Floridian opposition to engagement, Sunshine State residents show the strongest desire to change U.S. policy.
6. Does the poll include registered voters?
The vast majority of respondents are registered voters nationwide and among Floridians and Latinos.
Nationwide, over 90 percent of those surveyed are registered voters. If the poll results only include registered voters, the margin of error changes from +/- 3.1 percent to +/- 3.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval. The poll finds that 56 percent of respondents nationwide favor changing US-Cuba policy (normalizing relations/engaging more directly) and 35 percent oppose any change; among registered voters only, support for changing policy increases to 58 percent and opposition to changing policy decreases to 34 percent.
In Florida, 6 percent of the sample are not registered voters and an additional 4 percent refused to share their registration status. Thus, up to 10 percent of the Florida sample may not be registered voters, meaning 90 percent are registered. If the poll results only include those who are definitely registered voters, the Florida margin of error increases from +/- 4.0 percent to +/- 4.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval. Support for changing US-Cuba policy remains at 63 percent (the same percentage if all respondents are included), and opposition to changing policy increases 1 percentage point (within the margin of error) from 30 percent to 31 percent.
Among Latinos, 10 percent of the respondents are not registered voters and an additional 3 percent refused to say whether they are registered. If the findings assume that 13 percent of respondents are not registered voters, the Latino margin of error increases from 4.4 percent to 4.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval. The support for changing policy remains at 62 percent, and the opposition to changing policy increases 1 percentage point (again within the margin of error) from 30 percent to 31 percent.
7. How do these results compare to those from previous opinion polls?
Several national polls in recent years have shown an increasing trend backing U.S. engagement with Cuba. The Atlantic Council's 2014 report, however, is the first of its kind to indicate formidable strength behind support in Florida for a change to U.S. policy in addition to broad-based support among Hispanics and residents of all fifty states. Florida, nationally regarded as a swing state during election time, embraces broadening a dialogue with Cuba. No longer should the state closest to Cuba be considered an opponent to broad policy change. Future presidential and congressional candidates should recognize that Cuba is no longer a make-or-break issue in the state that lies ninety miles away from its shores.