New Poll Finds Bipartisan Support for Wider Cuba Opening

Changes in Cuba Policy Endorsed Even in States that View U.S. on ‘Wrong Track’

WASHINGTON – With presidential races heating up in key primary states, the Atlantic Council released a poll distilling the opinions of voters from America’s heartland: Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa. The poll—released in partnership with Engage Cuba—found that a majority of Americans from both parties support the lifting of the trade embargo and travel restrictions, and endorse the restoration of diplomatic relations.

Although a full 70 percent of voters think the country is on the wrong track, 58 percent of those same voters are in favor of President Obama’s new policies on U.S.-Cuba relations. The support in these states—important because of key congressional delegations or weight in presidential politics—constitutes a major victory for the President’s executive actions over the last year.

“For years, U.S. policy toward Cuba was dictated by a small group of individuals in the U.S., but issues of trade, investment and travel impact all Americans,” says Peter Schechter, Director of The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. “One year after President Obama began to normalize relations and allowed for some openings, there is majority support—from Democrats and Republicans—to continue the momentum. You would be hard-pressed to find any other Obama administration policy with this much Republican support,” continued Schechter.

“The poll results quantify what we at Engage Cuba have consistently been telling Congress. Congress should listen to its constituents and lift the travel ban and trade embargo as soon as possible to better empower American businesses in Cuba and support the Cuban people. Isolation for the last 55 years clearly has not advanced any of the United States’ policy goals,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba.

Highlights from the Atlantic Council poll include:

  • Republicans’ View: Despite a negative view of Cuba, the majority of Republicans favor the restoration of diplomatic relations and lifting the travel ban.
  • Trade Embargo: 58 percent of Heartland voters—a majority in all four states including 70 percent in Ohio—favor lifting the trade embargo entirely, with 60 percent convinced this would be beneficial to the agricultural industry.
  • Travel Restrictions: Nearly seven in ten Heartland voters (67 percent) want all travel restrictions to be lifted, including 66 percent of Independents and 54% of Republicans.
  • Engagement is the best option: Over six in ten voters in each state—and 68 percent of overall Heartland poll respondents—agree that the United States did the right thing in re-establishing relations in July. This is in spite of a 30 percent favorability of Cuba.

Though sweeping changes to U.S.-Cuba policy have been implemented by President Obama, the remaining restrictions on trade, investment and travel lie mostly in the hands of Congress. A small group of elected officials have long lobbied in favor of keeping the embargo on Cuba, but support for lifting the sanctions has grown exponentially in the last twelve months with new bills targeted at lifting many of the remaining obstacles.

“Opening travel and trade with Cuba is strongly supported by Heartland voters, businesses, and farmers,” said Steven Law, senior advisor to Engage Cuba. “They understand that ending these restrictions on our own freedom is both good for America and ultimately in the best interest of Cuba.”

Industries particularly impacted by the embargo, such as the agricultural industry, have also voiced support for changes in our current stance towards Cuba. The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba is comprised of more than one hundred agricultural associations and companies committed to opening trade between the U.S. and Cuba.

“U.S. agriculture will benefit from a further opening of U.S.-Cuba relations that is central to the economies of states like Iowa and Indiana,” says Jason Marczak, Deputy Director of the Latin America Center. “It’s clear that Americans see opportunity and want policies that allow them to capitalize on these openings. Policymakers in these critical states should take heed of the voters’ clear desire to further open up our Cuba policy.”

Several members have signed on as partners for the launch of the Atlantic Council poll, recognizing the critical impact these findings may have on shaping U.S.-Cuba policy. Partners include the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Tour Association. These organizations are part of a larger movement throughout the U.S. to expand opportunities for American businesses in Cuba.

The Atlantic Council and Engage Cuba are releasing the results of the poll at events in Washington, D.C. on November 17, followed by regional events in Tennessee on December 7 and Ohio on December 11.