There were some political risks associated with President Obama’s new foreign policy towards Cuba. Major changes are sometimes met with public skepticism, and the old, ineffective Cuba policy was the American norm for over a half-century.
Would Americans balk with the sudden break with the past? If the new Washington Post/ABC News poll is any indication, the answer is, apparently not.
Sixty-four percent support establishing ties with Cuba, similar to 66 percent in a 2009 Post-ABC poll asking whether the United States should do so.Sixty-eight percent support ending the trade embargo with Cuba – up 11 points from 2009 – and 74 percent support ending travel restrictions to Cuba – a jump of 19 points from five years ago. The poll described each policy in general and did not mention Obama’s action, maintaining broad comparability to previous surveys.
Specifically, when respondents were asked, “Overall, do you support or oppose the United States government establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba?” the responses were roughly two-to-one in favor of diplomatic ties. But looking through the crosstabs, it’s striking how broad the support is – other than self-identified conservative Republicans, every other group and subgroup agreed with the White House’s position.
What’s more, the results were even more one-sided when respondents were asked about ending the trade embargo with Cuba.
Perhaps most important in a political context is the direction of public attitudes: the survey found a big jump in the percentage of Americans who support trading with Cuba and an even larger increase in support for ending travel restrictions.
Most Republicans (but not all) clearly don’t like Obama’s policy – probably because it’s Obama’s policy – and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced his opposition to the administration’s shift yesterday. But nearly a week after the historic news reached the public, it appears Republican leaders are once again at odds with the American mainstream.
And while it’s always best to weigh individual polls against a larger pool of data, the new Post/ABC results are largely in line with another new poll from CBS News, which also found most Americans support reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The results related to travel were of particular interest.
Under the recent agreement, more Americans will be permitted to travel to Cuba, but a travel ban for most Americans remains in effect. A large majority supports allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba - including most Republicans (66 percent), Democrats (86 percent), and independents (77 percent).
If GOP lawmakers are going to turn the public against the president’s policy, they have their work cut out for them.