Cuban Voters in Florida Wavering in Support for President


We had previously discussed that Arab American voters, supporters of Bush in 2000, were abandoning the President in key swing states.

A parallel situation has been developing amongst Cuban-American voters in Florida, according to a recent survey of 1,807 Cuban-Americans conducted Jan. 30 through March 16 by Florida International University in partnership with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and NBC 6, and included registered voters and non-voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points:

“A recent poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, only 58.4 percent of registered voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Bush in November. About one-quarter said they were undecided, with the rest saying they probably would not or definitely would not vote to re-elect the president . . .

Several silver linings for the White House are found in the poll results. Bush’s support is strongest, between 63.1 and 66.1 percent, among Cuban-Americans who arrived in the United States before 1975. That group includes older exiles who are more likely to vote. Interviews with respondents showed that many still feel Bush is their best alternative.”

The situation, from the incumbent’s viewpoint, is somewhat worrisome: This time, there is no “Elián factor to draw angry Cuban voters into the GOP fold;” From little Havana’s point of view, this race will be fought on the incumbent’s record. And while the President is very likely to win over a majority of Florida’s Cuban voters, it may not be an overwhelming majority:

“Democratic Party strategists now believe that if Sen. John Kerry can raise the Cuban exile vote for his party to 25 percent or 30 percent — a realistic goal, considering that President Bill Clinton got 36 percent of the Cuban exile vote in 1996 — he could carry Florida, and get a good shot at winning the national election. After all, Bush won Florida by only 537 votes in the past election, they note.

Miami Herald columnist Michael Putney thinks the number scould be even more severe:

“Recent polls say that President Bush is in trouble with Cuban-American voters. The polls are interesting but fairly meaningless: The Cuban vote is Bush’s to lose. My gut feeling is that this November, as in 2000, Bush will get most of it. The only question is: Will he get 80 percent, as he did four years ago, or about 60 percent, as a new poll indicates? The difference could swing the election in Florida.”

Consider that Florida has over 400,000 Cuban-American voters. If Putney is correct — if the President takes “only” 60% of the Cuban American vote, versus the 80% four of years ago — that represents a potential swing of 80,000 votes.

Putney also observes that Bush’s problem with Cuban-American voters is “one largely of his own making. He is the victim of rising expectations, which he is responsible for raising. Like every Republican since Ronald Reagan, Bush has come to Miami numerous times and thundered, “Cuba, sí; Castro, no!” But after four decades of such talk, Cuban Americans want to see some action.”

When I tell you this race gets more interesting by the day, I am not fooling around . . .

UPDATE: April 27, 2004 11:58am
Slate has an interesting follow up: Kerry’s Cuban Problem

Cubans’ support for Bush declines, South Florida poll shows
By Rafael Lorente
Sun-Sentinel March 21 2004,0,2025102.story

Cuban-American vote is Bush’s to lose
Michael Putney
Miami Herald, Mar. 24, 2004

Bush, Kerry will fight for Cuban-American vote
Andres Oppenheimer
Miami Herald, Mar. 11, 2004

Elian swings Cuban voters back to GOP
After backing Clinton, Cuban-American voters are ready to punish Democrats for the Gonzalez situation
David Adams
St. Petersburg Times, November 5, 2000

Kerry’s Cuban Problem
By Ann Louise Bardach
Slate, April 26, 2004, at 3:32 PM PT

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Jorge Naya commented on Mar 25

    It’s unfortunate to pay attention to Michael Putney on anything; his expertise on Miami or Cuban matters is non-existent, although it does provide him with a living. “Amiable boob” comes to mind, except for the “Amiable” part.

    The other sources are equally useless: FIU, the Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the “anti-Miami” Herald.

    As soon as Kerry has his picture taken with Rangel, Serrano and other Castro stalwarts, people on the fence will hold their nose and vote for Bush again.

    As an exercise for the student, before determining what do Cuban-Americans want or what will they do, consider the somewhat easier (by reason of familiarity) “what do Americans/Southeners/Ohioans/NewEnglanders/Moms/Seniors… want, and what will they do”

    Barry, best regards, but your use of these sources grieves me (possible use: as random, not contrary, indicators…)

  2. Barry Ritholtz commented on Mar 26

    I don’t know Putney at all — 1st article I’ve ever read of his.

    But the FIU/Sun survey seems pretty substantial — 1,807 respondents is a huge number for a survey — as opposed to say, the Univision poll (400 or so)

    I expect Bush will win a majority of Cubano voters — but will the # be 60% or 80%?

    Thats a huge swing — potentially 80,000 voters

  3. Jorge Naya commented on Mar 26

    To summarize what passes for the local media: visualize the map of the US, draw a big rectangle encompassing Seattle, LA, Boston and Jax, notice how far Miami is outside it, provincial as is the mindset of these folks.

    Zoom out to include Latin America, now Miami is a central crossroads/market, as in real life. This complicated area is covered by reporters who live outside it, dislike Spanish and can’t speak it, drive in or not for an hour, and interact amongst themselves – reminiscent of the folks who covered Enron. They know nothing. (However, Oppenheimer is very good, on a much higher level)

    The answers to the polls are often in the questions, and that is the polling style of FIU (although not as shameless as the Herald’s Schroth polls)

    A long time remains before the election and anything can happen. See Spain.

    There are brain-dead who will vote Bush automatically, say 30-40%. The remainder are aware that he is a boob, and the hypocrisy in liberating and rebuilding the fine Iraqi people a zillion miles away when folks who could use the treatment are next door. How there are no honest people around Bush (Whitman and Menendez are gone, Powell’s ghost materializes on either side of the line).

    Kerry represents a change, but in an unknown direction. He could balance the ticket with a less liberal guy: Ted Kennedy! McCain would be ideal. If he highlights his connections to such guys as Rangel, Reno and Ted (add Carter, who is actually a fine man), he’ll get 25% of the uncommitted = Bush 80, Kerry 20.

    If he comes along as honest, a guy who has already shown his personal valor, rein in the thieving elements, he could get 50-60% of the uncommitted, 65-35, maybe even 60-40. This would put him over the top.

    The Dems should be teaching folks how to vote, how to get to their precinct, which would make the Cuban vote moot.

  4. Matthew Yglesias commented on Mar 26

    I think that polling data on declining support for Bush among south Florida Latinos may represent not a shift in Cuban public opinion as much as a demographic shift such that the south Florida Latino population is becoming less Cuban. Indeed, contrary to popular myth, most Latinos in Florida as a whole are not Cuban. The Democrats’ Latino problem in Cuba is, in essence, that the longer historical presence of the Cuban politician has created historic ties between the Florida GOP and Spanish-speaking communities, which means that even non-Cuban Florida Hispanics are more Republican-friendly than their co-ethnics in Texas, New York, Illinois, and the Southwest.

    So I dunno. I also think Cuba policy is a trap for Democrats. Year after year the Democratic nominee comes out strongly in favor of the embargo and Helms-Burton in an effort to win over some Cuban voters. It never works. Coming out in opposition, on the other hand, would let the nominee use it as an issue in the farm belt, shoring up Democratic marginals like Iowa and Wisconsin and possibly boosting his appeal in rural Missouri.

  5. Carmen Smith commented on Apr 19

    As a Cuban American I have ways voted Republican, but I am very distressed at what I see in the White House, and the Republican Party. I try to read between the lines as one always does, and see and hear dishonesty coming from both Bush Brothers, George and Jeb. It’s scary what I’m hearing and see our civil liberties threatened. The whole world now evolves around Terrorism, and the concept is used for scare tactics and to benefit the Bush Administration, and the Republican Party. The world according to Bush is becoming more closed and fearful, and only he and his advisors have the answers to the world’s problems. Is there a red bell going off? This is no way to run a democracy.

  6. Steffie Stefania commented on Sep 17

    Want your son in IRAQ? Vote for Bush and get your son into the draft.

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