Public Backs U.S.-Cuba Relations

Americans support changes in bilateral relations, according to public opinion polls, writes Ruy Teixeira.

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President Obama last week eased restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans to visit and send money to family in Cuba—the first significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in decades. The decision reverses the particularly hard-line stance of the Bush administration, a move by Obama that apparently has the full backing of the American public.

Consider these results from a early April survey on Cuba policy and U.S. public opinion. The survey asked respondents which position was closest to theirs given recent leadership changes in Cuba: that it was “time to try a new approach to Cuba, because Cuba may be ready for a change” or that since the Communist Party is still in control, the United States “should continue to isolate Cuba.” By a 59-to-39 percent margin the public backed the time-for-a-change approach.

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The American people are even more supportive of the specific moves made by President Obama last week. They back his easing of travel restrictions for Cuban Americans by an overwhelming 79-to-19 percent margin.

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And the public is clearly comfortable with going farther than this in developing a more open relationship with Cuba. Seventy-five percent think it is a good idea for U.S. government leaders to be ready to meet with Cuban leaders. Seventy percent think Americans in general should be free to visit Cuba. And 69 percent favor re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Critically, the public also believes overwhelmingly that if we go down this road and increase travel and trade between Cuba and the United States, the end result will be a more open and democratic Cuba. This position is supported by 71 percent of the American public.

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A more open and democratic Cuba—now that’s something that both the Cuban and American people can agree on. Let’s hope it comes to pass.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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