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MIAMI (AP) - A majority of Americans and even higher proportion of Floridians support re-establishing relations with Cuba, Washington’s Cold War-era foe that remains blocked behind a five-decade economic embargo, results from a poll released Tuesday show.
The poll by the nonpartisan Atlantic Council found 56 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Floridians support engaging more directly with the communist island. In Miami-Dade County, home to the largest concentration of Cuban-Americans, 64 percent of adults said they favor changing U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba.
“My sense is that Americans are very supportive of normalization and in particular of beginning, right now, to undo piece by piece each of the strands that make up the Cuba embargo,” said Peter Schechter, director of the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
The results fall in line with previous polling of Americans on U.S.-Cuba relations. Gallup polls conducted since 1999 have found a majority favor re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba. For more than a decade, about half of Americans have also favored ending the trade embargo.
The survey comes as momentum toward U.S. engagement with Cuba has been building. In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted restrictions instituted by former President George W. Bush on the number of times Cuban-Americans could travel back to visit relatives on the island. The administration has also removed restrictions on remittances and in 2011 reinstated so-called “people-to-people” travel. U.S. citizens can apply for licenses to travel to Cuba and participate in cultural and education exchanges.
Attitudes among the Cuban-American community have also been shifting. A 2011 poll of the Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade County by Florida International University found 56 percent favor continuing the embargo, a noticeable drop from 1993, when 85 percent said they favored tightening the embargo. The Atlantic Council poll did not specifically address the embargo, though it did question respondents on components that it includes, including resumption of travel, business and diplomatic ties.
Yet significant hurdles remain in loosening any aspect of the embargo.
A majority of the Cuban-American congressional delegation remains staunchly in favor of continuing the sanctions. And the continued detention of Alan Gross, an American arrested four years ago while working covertly to set up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community, remains a barrier toward any movement forward.
“I would expect, being cautious about it, there might be additional steps taken in that direction,” Duany said. “But it’s hard to see there will be sufficient support for a major change in U.S.-Cuba relations.”
The Atlantic Council poll surveyed 1,024 randomly selected adults by landline and cell phone from Jan. 7 to Jan. 22.
Sixty-two percent of respondents nationwide said they supported allowing American companies to do business in Cuba. Sixty-one percent said they support removing all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. In Florida, that number was six points higher, at 67 percent.
Seventy-seven percent nationwide said they support diplomatic coordination on issues of mutual concern. In Florida, again, the number was higher, at 82 percent.
Schechter said he was most surprised by the higher level of support for normalized relations in Florida compared to the rest of the nation.
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