Draft -- subject to revision


Guillermo J. Grenier

Hugh Gladwin


The 1997 Cuba Poll, conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Research (IPOR) of Florida International University and the Miami Herald, measured the level of support within the Cuban-American community in Dade County for policies directed toward Cuba. This poll, conducted between May 30 and June 14, 1997 consisted of 1200 random interviews with Cuban Americans in the Dade County area. The size of the poll permits a complete analysis of various demographic categories within the Cuban community Dade County.

The first Cuba Poll was conducted six years ago, in March of 1991. Subsequent polls were conducted in October of 1991, in June of 1993 and March of 1995. As in the three previous polls, the researchers found a diversity of opinions on what policies would facilitate political changes on the island. The consistency of some of the responses, as well as the shift in others, present us with the most complete picture to date of the Cuban-American political attitudes towards Cuba. While most of the responses were consistent with the previous surveys, the most recent poll uncovered interesting shifts in some significant attitudes toward foreign policy options as well as highlighted some important opinions regarding the Helms-Burton Act and of the importance of foreign policy for domestic decision making. In general terms, the findings can be summarized as follows.

There appears to be an increasing frustration about the lack of political change occurring on the island and the growing realization that desired changes are not likely to occur anytime soon. Only 11% of respondent feel that changes will occur within one year.

At the same time, over fifty one percent (51.6%) of respondents signal that they would support a dialogue with the Cuban government. In the context of the other responses, this desire can be interpreted as signifying that among some within the Cuban-American community in Dade County, a dialogue is seen as an agent of positive change as well as a way to bring about the end of the Castro era in Cuba.

Cuban Americans feel that they are well informed about the Helms-Burton Act and overwhelmingly support its major initiatives. Only 15% respond that they have not heard much about the law. Over 75% think that it is a good way to bring about change on the island.

The Cuban American residents of Dade County are generally concerned about the lack of change on the island but they are far from monolithic in their support for different policies. There are major differences of opinion and a number of these vary systematically across different groups in the community. For example, respondents who left Cuba after 1979 are more likely to support negotiated solutions than those arriving during the 1960s. In fact, the more recent the departure from Cuba, the more likely that the respondent will support negotiated solutions.

Although only 25% feel that the embargo has worked well, the Cuban American population expressed strong support for its continuation (78%) and increasing international economic pressure in form of punishment of foreign companies doing business on the island (70%). Over 61% of the respondents support the prohibition on U.S. companies from doing business in Cuba. Approximately 79% favor the possibility of suing companies for seized property.

Yet, 56% would favor allowing companies to sell medicine to the people on the island.

Echoing the results of the other surveys, the Cuban-American community is willing to lend support to human rights groups working inside Cuba. Over 92% of respondents support lending a hand to such groups.

Nearly 77% of the respondents feel that the number of visas currently being given to Cubans on the island to come to the United States to live is adequate.

Only 6% of the respondents consider themselves active members of an organization working directly on issues relating to Cuba.

There continues to be support for initiating military action by exile groups (71%) or a U.S. invasion of the island (66%).

While the community supports travel to the island to visit relatives (70%), it does not approve of allowing travel just for the sake of visiting the island. Approximately 77% think that such travel should not be allowed.

A large majority of respondents (70%) report that a local candidate's position on Cuba is important in determining their vote.

A large majority (71%) feels that all points of view on how to deal with Castro are not being heard in Miami.



The survey results indicate that Cuban-Americans have become less certain about when major political changes will occur in Cuba. While in 1991 and 1995 approximately 88% and 41%, respectively, of respondents expected changes to occur within five years or less, only 36% of the current respondents expect major changes within the next five years.

Only 11 percent expect major political changes to occur in Cuba within one year while an additional 25 percent anticipate that major changes are more than one year but less than five years away.

17% of the sample believes that desired changes will never occur in Cuba.

The older respondents are more likely to consider political changes in Cuba imminent (within one year). Yet, younger respondents are more optimistic that change will occur within the next nine years. Similarly, significantly more respondents who oppose a dialogue believe that changes will occur within one year but more of those favoring a dialogue believe that changes will occur within two to five years.


The Cuban-American community supports a variety of policies to promote political changes on the island. Within the general patterns there are some variances associated with particular groups. The cross tabulations included in this report divide responses according to seven variables: gender, age, year respondent left Cuba, education, income level, position on a dialogue with the Cuban government and political party affiliation. Please refer to these tabulations for complete details on the differences between respondents belonging to each group. Here, we will highlight the general responses of the populations based on their level of support for specific policies. If we look at the rank order of support from the all of the respondents that voiced an opinion, the following order emerges.

92 percent favor supporting human rights groups working inside Cuba.

71 percent favor military action by the exile community against the Cuban government.

70 percent favor allowing travel to the island to visit relatives.

66 percent favor United States military action to overthrow Cuban government.

56 percent favor allowing companies to sell medicine to the island.

52 percent favor the establishment of a national dialogue between Cuban exiles, Cuban dissidents, and representatives of the Cuban Government.

44 percent favor allowing U.S. companies to sell food to the island.

23 percent favor allowing travel to the island just to visit.


Another set of questions were designed to measure the potential movement of Cubans between Miami and the island when certain changes are perceived to have taken place in Cuban.

23 percent would be very likely (11%) or somewhat likely (11.6%)to return to live on the island if the country's economy improved significantly.

29 percent would be very likely (14.3%) or somewhat likely (15%) to return to live on the island if the country's government changed to a democratic form.

49 percent would be very likely (28%) or somewhat likely (16.6%) to return to live on the island if the economy and the government changed for the better.

36 percent felt that relatives on the island would come to the United States to live if Cuba had a democratic government.


Perhaps the most discussed division within the Cuban-American community in the United States is that between those who support a dialogue among all Cubans and the Cuban government to expedite changes on the island and those who oppose such a dialogue. Excluding the respondents who did not answer the question or did not know if they would support such and initiative, 51.6% of the respondents favor the establishment of such a national dialogue.


Another set of questions measured the primary source of information used by the respondents to receive news about Cuba.

52 percent receive information about Cuba from some television source.

20 percent depend on newspapers for their primary source of information about Cuba.

21 percent listen to the radio for information about Cuba.

Others received most of their information from friends (5%).

Other Media Questions

53 percent of the respondents prefer to receive their news in Spanish and 22 percent prefer news in English and 25 percent prefer both.

55 percent believe that it is a good idea for CNN to open a bureau in Havana.

56 percent believe that it is a good idea for the Herald to open a news bureau in Havana.

Domestic Spill Over Effect

One section of the questionnaire is designed to measure some of the impact that the Cuba issue might have on domestic electoral concerns. One of the most significant results of the domestic spill over effect of the Cuban-American communities' concern with Cuba is their high registration in the Republican Party. About 68 percent of the respondents are U.S. citizens. Of these, 92 percent report being registered to vote. And of these, 70 percent are registered in the Republican Party, 16 percent are registered Democrats and 14 percent are Independents. Analysts have signaled this political alignment, not typical of the Hispanic population in the United States, to be a result of the Cuban concern for foreign policy issues. Cubans became involved in politics initially to influence Washington's position towards Cuba. Achieving local power is a result of this initial commitment.

The polls discern some other dimensions of the spill-over effect on Cuban-American political culture.

Seventy percent say that in local political elections, a candidate's position on Cuba is important in determining their vote.

Seventy one percent feel that all points of view on how to deal with Castro are not being heard in Miami.

Forty one percent are in agreement with the decision to exclude Andy Montanez from the Calle Ocho festival.

Forty seven percent agree with the decision by some stations to stop broadcasting Cuban (from the island) music on local radio stations.

A majority (53%) feel that their opinion, whatever it was, reflects the view of most of the Cuban-American community in Dade County.

The Helms-Burton Act

Fifty six percent of the sample has heard a great deal about the Helms-Burton Law.

Seventy Five percent of the sample feels that the H-B Law is a good idea to bring around change in Cuba.

Seventy three percent feel that the U.S. Congress (and not the President), should decide when to end the embargo against Cuba.

When asked to choose between free elections or a free market system being put in place first, 49 percent of the sample said that free elections are more important than a free market economy.

Fifty one percent of the sample said that the U.S. should be very involved in the development of a Post Castro Cuba. 35 percent said that the U.S. should be somewhat involved.


Forty two percent of the sample believes that the next president of Cuba after Fidel should be someone living on the island now.

Fifty two percent of the sample believes that the up coming visit by the Pope to the island will not bring about any significant changes.

Fifty five percent feel that the recent changes in immigration and welfare laws which have caused a number of legal residents to lose government benefits were not necessary.


From May 30 to June 14, 1,200 Cuban-Americans in Dade County, Florida were asked a series of questions about their support of policies toward Cuba.

A random sample was generated from telephone exchanges in Dade County using standard random-digit-dialing procedures which ensure that each residential phone has an equal chance of being chosen for the sample. The sample was stratified by the 1990 census estimates of number of residents of Cuban descent. Bilingual (Spanish/English) interviewers conducted the interviews from IPOR'S telephone lab at the North Campus of Florida International University. The margin of error for the full sample of 1,200 is +/- 3% at the 95% confidence level.

About half of the sample were people who came to the United States from Cuba before 1970. 16% (189) arrived in the 1980's and 15% (176) in the 1990's. For these latter two groups the margin of error is between +/- 7 and 8 percent; this is precise enough to make many of the differences in opinion between these groups statistically significant.


Dr. Guillermo J. Grenier is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University. Dr. Hugh Gladwin is Director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR) at FIU and Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology. The authors thank the IPOR's staff and interviewers for their skill and dedication.