Americans support opening to Cuba, new polls show

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by Lucy McCalmont, POLITICO

Protesters Opposed To Obama's Shift In Cuba Policy Demonstrate In MiamiA majority of Americans support opening diplomatic ties with Cuba, according to a handful of recent polls — the first conducted since President Barack Obama’s change in policy was announced.

Sixty-four percent support re-establishing ties with Cuba, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday found. A CBS poll published Monday said that 54 percent support opening trade and diplomatic relations.

Additionally, a Reuters poll, also published Monday, found that 46 percent of those polled support normalizing relations with Cuba.

(On POLITICO Magazine: Why Cuba needs Internet)

The Reuters poll also said that 41 percent of respondents support lifting the embargo — which would require an act of Congress. The Washington Post poll found that 68 percent support ending the trade embargo.

The polls follow President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that the U.S. will normalize ties with Cuba, including setting up an embassy and easing certain restrictions. But Americans aren’t explicitly rallying behind the president, a deeper look at the questions shows.

The Washington Post, for instance, noted it did not mention Obama’s action in its poll questions; CBS found that only 44 percent support the president’s handling of U.S. relations with Cuba.

The polls all show the usual sharp political divides, with Democrats supporting the move more strongly and Republicans divided.

Those divisions were on clear display last week when two possible presidential contenders — Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — battled over the president’s announcement.

Americans also don’t seem clear on what impact Obama’s policy shift will have on Cuba — or the U.S.

Nearly half of Americans said that improving diplomatic relations will make no difference, the CBS poll showed, and only 36 percent said it will lead to more democracy in Cuba. Only 28 percent told CBS that the new policy will be good for the United States, but most are unsure.

Americans do seem united, however, on one thing: They want to be allowed to go to Cuba.

Seventy-four percent support ending travel restrictions, according to the Washington Post, and 77 percent told CBS that Americans should be able to travel to Cuba.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Dec. 17 to 21 and surveyed 1,011 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The CBS poll was conducted December 18-21 and surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points

The Reuters poll was conducted Dec. 18-22, but the news agency did not release its methodology.

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