Nowhere else in America has the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba had more support than in South Florida's Cuban community. But the latest poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County confirms that support for the trade embargo is steadily waning and that hard-line Florida and national leaders are out of step with the public. Even in South Florida, Cuban-Americans agree that after 54 years, it's time for a new approach.
The 2014 Cuba Poll marks the fifth time since 1991 that Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute has surveyed both immigrants and their descendents in Miami-Dade, and the trend lines can't be denied. This year's poll found 52 percent want to lift the embargo; among those ages 18-19, the portion grew to 62 percent.
Compare that to just three years ago when 56 percent supported the embargo, down from 87 percent in the 1991 poll.
Anecdotal evidence has been building for years that sensibilities, even in Florida, are shifting. Three years after the Obama administration relaxed some travel policies, Tampa International Airport ranks behind only Miami as a gateway to Cuba. Cuban exile and sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul suggested he would be interested in doing business in Cuba. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor, opposes the embargo as he campaigns as a Democrat for his old job.
Still there remains a cadre of embargo defenders. The FIU poll led to another round of rhetorical outrage, including from some in the South Florida congressional delegation. Critics also noted that FIU's longtime reporting scheme leaves out "unsures" in calculating percentages. But even when those are taken into account, the results show 45 percent oppose the embargo and 41 support it, with 12 percent saying they were unsure or didn't know.
Beyond the politically charged word "embargo," when it comes to obvious next steps for the United States, the support is there among Miami-Dade's Cuban community. The poll found 68 percent support restoring diplomatic relations, and 69 percent want to lift additional travel restrictions. Even among the smaller subset of registered voters in the survey, who tend to be more conservative on lifting the embargo, there is support for improving diplomatic relations (55 percent) and lifting travel restrictions (58 percent). And 81 percent of that group said they would support replacing the embargo with a policy "that increases pressure on the Cuban government over human rights."
Now even most of South Florida's Cuban community accepts the embargo has failed. It's time for Florida and national leaders to do the same.