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Older Cuban-Americans more rigid on foreign policy, poll finds

MIAMI — Cuban-American voters here remain dominated by an older generation with more extreme views on U.S.-Cuba foreign policy, including support for the U.S. embargo against their communist homeland, according to an exit poll taken during the 2008 election.

The University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies published the poll results Friday.

The 48-year-old embargo against Cuba should be kept the same or even tightened, according to 57 percent of the Cuban-American voters interviewed in Miami-Dade County during early voting and on Election Day in November.

Younger Cuban-Americans and recent Cuban immigrants have more moderate or even liberal attitudes toward the sanctions, but they are less likely to vote, said University of Miami political science professor Casey Klofstad, one of the poll's two authors.

The poll did show some thawing in the community, though. A similar 2004 exit poll of Cuban-American voters in Miami-Dade showed that 64 percent supported tightening the embargo and 53 would have tightened U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

"Those people shifted to thinking that the present state of the restrictions is satisfactory, that they should be kept about the same," said co-author Ben Bishin, a political science professor at the University of California, Riverside. He also co-authored the 2004 exit poll.

The thaw is easier to see than to explain. In 2004, Fidel Castro was still in power in Havana. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also proposed lifting restrictions for all travel to Cuba, not just for Cuban-Americans.

"We can't tell if that's a result of Fidel transferring power to (his brother) Raul or that the economy was the most important issue in 2008," Bishin said. "The other thing is Obama's promises for changing U.S.-Cuba policy were much more measured than John Kerry's."

The 2008 exit poll showed 53 percent of the Cuban-American voters supported keeping or tightening the travel ban.

Those restrictions have changed since Election Day.

President Barack Obama earlier this month signed a $410 billion spending bill that rolled back Bush administration limits on Cuban-Americans visiting their relatives on the island.

The bill effectively allows visits once a year, removes restrictions on how long people can stay in Cuba and permits spending up to $179 a day. However, the changes remain in effect only until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Several Cuban-Americans interviewed Friday in Miami's Little Havana said they were weary of bans and sanctions that have done little to budge either Castro from power.

Older Cuban-Americans more rigid on foreign policy, poll finds 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 9:54pm]
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