The Poll In-Depth: Reasons for Change

Respondents were read factual statements about the United States and Cuba and asked if they considered each statement a reason to normalize relations or keep current policy in place.

STATEMENT 1: Cuba is only ninety miles away from the US mainland.


STATEMENT 2: Our government only allows Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba without permission. If you are not Cuban-American, the US Treasury Department must approve your travel. We do not do that with any other country.


When told that Cuba was only ninety miles off the coast of Florida, or when it was shared that US travel policy with Cuba is unique in the world, approximately six in ten people said this was an important reason to normalize relations. The majority of those who saw the statement as justification to engage with Cuba considered it a “very important” reason (not just “somewhat important”), indicating the intensity of desire for change.

“99 Miles Away” and Travel Restrictions Are Compelling Logic for Engagement

STATEMENT 3: The Cuba trade embargo is estimated to cost the US economy as much as $4.8 billion in exports and related economic output per year.

Latinos are 7 percentage points ahead of the nation in considering the economic impact of the embargo to be a reason to open relations with Cuba. The US Latino community had been particularly hard hit by the downturn of the US economy—a potential reason for its support of any policy change that could yield additional economic opportunities. Across the board the results show strong support for normalization among those who found this statement to be an important reason to change policy.

Economic Policy Is Particularly Important to Latinos Among Reasons to Engage

STATEMENT 4: Cuba continues to have a dismal human rights record. The Castro regime represses virtually all forms of political dissent through detentions, arbitrary arrests, beatings, travel restrictions, forced exile, and sentencing dissidents in closed trials.


STATEMENT 5: After more than fifty years of no US relations with Cuba the Castro regime remains in power.


Most Americans consider Cuba’s abysmal human rights record under Fidel and now Raúl Castro a reason to keep current policy. The original intention of the embargo was to isolate the country through comprehensive economic sanctions. Though the embargo has failed to isolate Cuba, the majority of Americans and Floridians believe that the Castros remaining in power fifty years later is a reason to keep current policy. Latinos, however, see the continuation of the Castro regime as a reason to normalize. They are also potentially slightly more inclined to change policy in light of the human rights situation.

The Castros’ Human Rights Record is a Strong Deterrent to Changing Policy

Reaction to Statements in Support of Normalization

Statements  Nationwide  State of Florida  Hispanics/Latins
 Very/Somewhat Convincing  Very/Somewhat Convincing  Very/Somewhat Convincing
Latin America is the United States’ fastest growing trading partner. Cuba, just ninety miles off the Florida Coast, provides new opportunities for American businesses in all types of industries—agriculture, hotels and tourism, and high-tech—that will help grow the US economy and create new jobs in America.

 65%  69% 71%
For fifty years, the US embargo has hurt the people of Cuba, not the government. Changing our policy will help the Cuban people out of severe poverty, and we can continue to be tough on the Castro regime and hold it accountable for human rights abuses.

 64%  64%  65%
Today we have good diplomatic relations with Vietnam, including open travel and free trade. If we are willing to talk to and work with a country we went to war with, surely it is time to reevaluate our outdated Cuba policy.

61% 57% 66%
As with communism in Eastern Europe or dictatorships in the Middle East, Cuba’s government will eventually change. It is better for the US to engage more directly with Cuba now so we are in better position to respond to that change instead of waiting to respond to chaos, like what is happening in Egypt, just ninety miles from our shores.

57% 62% 64%
For too long, politicians have allowed Florida to control US foreign policy. It is time to set our Cuba policy based on what is best for America’s overall national security and economic interests.
56% 58% 66%

Respondents were read a series of statements made by those in favor of normalization. They were then asked whether each argument was very convincing, somewhat convincing, not convincing, or if they didn’t believe it. Those who considered the statements to be very and somewhat convincing are depicted in this chart. Much like when asked about possible policy changes, people were most responsive to the economic elements of this argument, believing that new business opportunities were a convincing reason to change current policy. As with the question that addressed the loss of business due to the embargo, Latinos lead the nation in finding this a particularly important reason to normalize relations.

Economic Arguments Prove to Be Most Convincing for Normalization

Reaction to Statements in Opposition to Normalization

Statements Nationwide State of Florida Hispanics/Latinos
Very/Somewhat Convincing Very/Somewhat Convincing Very/Somewhat Convincing
Ending the embargo before the Cuban government meets the conditions specified would weaken the United States. Changing our policy would send a message to Iran, North Korea, and other countries that they can act against American interests with no consequences.
51%  52%  58%
Cuban-Americans support current US policy because it puts economic pressure on the Castro regime, while providing assistance to Cuban citizens. Travel and financial restrictions have already been lifted for Cuban-Americans to help their families; meanwhile we should stay tough on the Castro regime.
 61%  67%  61%
Now is not the time to lift sanctions as the embargo is weakening the Cuban government. Keeping existing policies in place will help bring down the Castro regime, like our tough stance
 54%  52%  54%

Respondents were read statements made by those in favor of maintaining current US policy. Similar to the previous figure, they were then asked whether each argument was very convincing, somewhat convincing, not convincing, or if they didn’t believe it. Unsurprisingly, in Florida, a state where approximately seven in ten Cuban-Americans live, people found the argument that invokes Cuban-Americans and their status to be particularly persuasive in keeping US policy. The previous question, which listed reasons in favor of ending the embargo, along with the question on the state sponsors of terrorism, both point to the power of information and messaging. A majority of people were convinced by the pro-normalization arguments, and then a slightly smaller majority— but a majority, nonetheless—also were swayed by the pro-embargo arguments.

Reasons for Maintaining the Embargo Also Receive Support Across the Board