Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Old Cuban Proverb. Really.
If you ask questions about Cuba to Cuban Americans, they will tell you their opinions, their mother’s opinion, and the opinions of every Cuban they know until the sun sets, sin pelos en la lengua. And it is likely that Cubans indeed discuss Cuba more often than, say, random individuals living in New York or Ohio or California. But it is also likely that Cubans talk about other important topics of national importance just as much as folks in New York, Ohio or California. At least that’s the impression that we get when we ask Cubans to prioritize the concerns most important to them.
There is evidence that Cuban Americans are more liberal on a variety of mainstream sociopolitical issues than Republicans as a group. In the Cuba Poll we don’t compare Cuban Americans to other groups but we do ask them to prioritize key issues that are currently on the national agenda. This article looks at the questions on the 2022 FIU Cuba Poll that seem to indicate that Cubans are not simply “one trick ponies” obsessed with US/Cuba policy to the detriment of other issues facing the community.
Don’t get me wrong, Cuban Americans as a group do not view themselves as being liberal. When each respondent was asked to place their political attitudes on a scale from 1-7, one signifying very conservative and seven signifying very liberal, Democrats are far ahead of the pack in proclaiming their liberal credentials. Young Cuban Americans, particularly those born outside the island, make distance themselves from the ultra-conservative Republicans but as a whole the population remains solidly conservative in its self-assessment. (Figure 1).
As citizens and residents of this country, Cuban Americans take part its broader political narrative, most of which does not deal with Cuba or US/Cuba policy. When we asked the respondents to prioritize some key national issues on a scale of 1-5, we begin to see their domestic political profiles. Each issue was considered independently. That is each respondent prioritized, from 1-5, each issue. We then combined the scores to create a picture of the community’s priorities. These are the issues that we asked the respondents to prioritize: the economy, health care, immigration, Cuba policies, gun control, Russia policies, China policies, race relations and abortion rights.
In the following figures we present the ranking of the items by the total population (on the left) and then we present the ranking based on three specific characteristics of the sample: the age of respondents, the migration period and nativity of respondents and the voter registration status of respondents.
It’s the Economy, Healthcare and Immigration, Stupid!
The priorities reflect the domestic concerns of Cuban Americans in south Florida. The economy ranks as the first priority of Cuban Americans followed by healthcare and immigration. These three issues jockey for position across cohorts but mostly dominate the concerns of all groups. The most elderly group, for example, considers healthcare its top priority and elevates gun control to third place over immigration. Concerns for abortion rights are most evident among the 18-39 cohort. Cuba policy roams between 4th and 8th place across our cohorts. (Figure 2).
When we organize our respondents by their migration periods and nativity, the top three priorities maintain their dominance in all cohorts but we see a shift in ranking among the most recent arrivals (2015-2022) who consider healthcare to be more important than either the economy or immigration. This cohort also elevates gun control, race relations and abortion to their highest level among all groups. (Figure 3).
The opinions of Cuban Americans registered to vote automatically become more important during this political season. Republicans prioritize the economy higher than either Democrats or Independents and Democrats raise healthcare to a number one ranking, as do the non-voting non-citizens. (Figure 4).
The political climate of the day is also reflected in the ranking of access to safe abortion care. Democrats logically prioritize access to safe abortions second behind healthcare. Republicans decouple healthcare and abortion in their list of priorities. Healthcare is tied with immigration for second place. Access to safe abortion is ranked securely in last place. A similar partisan polarization is seen in the topic of gun control.
Approval for Biden’s Handling of Key Issues
Biden receives little support for his handling of US/Cuba policy.
Cuban Americans, in general, are underwhelmed by the way that President Biden has handled US/Cuba policy. He is pleasing no one. Only 28% support Biden’s handling of the issue. The most recent arrivals and registered Democrats are the only two categories which express the majority support. Non-citizens, perhaps the most recently arrived of the group, are split in their support. While it is impossible to tell in this question whether the disapproval stems from his lack of action or from the few actions that he has taken, it is clear that he is pleasing very few Cuban Americans in his approach. (Figure 5).
Biden receives little support for his handling of US/China policy.
The respondents express slightly more support for the President’s handling of US/China policy than for his handling of Cuba policy. Approximately 30% approve of his China policy. Again we find Democrats, the newest arrivals and non-citizens cutting him the little slack that he gets from the Cuban-American community in south Florida. (Figure 6).
Biden gets better marks for handling US/Russia relations but nothing to write home about.
Biden improves his foreign policy approval rating marginally as we work our way along the alphabet. Thirty four percent of Cuban Americans support his handling of Russia policy. The lack of support is not unanimous across all the categories of respondents. Registered Democrats and the newest arrivals carry his approval water again. (Figure 7).
Biden gets equally lukewarm support for his handling of the Ukraine crisis.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents support Biden’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. Only the cohort of registered Democrats express majority support for Biden on this issue with the newest arrivals splitting evenly on their approval of the President. (Figure 8).
Biden gets strong support for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
Approximately 56% of Cuban Americans in South Florida support the President’s handling of the Covid crisis. Cuba policy in general. The main opposition comes from registered Republicans, 61% of whom do not support the President’s handing of the challenges posed by the pandemic. (Figure 9).
Biden gets feeble support for his handling of the economy.
Unsurprisingly, registered Democrats are the only category of respondents that express strong support (62%) for the President’s handing of the economy. The newest arrivals are the only other group which approaches the breakeven point with 48% expressing support for how the administration has handled the economy. All other respondent groups are disappointed in the administration’s economic policy performance. (Figure 10).
Surprise! Biden’s overall approval rating is low among Cuban Americans in south Florida. But it could be worse.
As of this writing, the polling gurus at FiveThirtyEight report a 42.7% approval rating for President Biden. This places him on a par with President Trump and most other previous presidents going into the first midterm elections. This evaluation, however, does not hold true among Cuban-Americans. When asked to evaluate President Biden’s overall job performance, 32% of Cuban Americans have a positive appraisal. The cohorts which express approval above that of the entire sample are, in order of approval, Democrats (73%), newest arrivals (64%), non-citizens (50%), the 76+ age cohort (40%), and the 60-75 age cohort (35%). (Figure 11).
In the next installment reporting the 2022 FIU Cuba Poll results, we’ll look ahead to the elections and read the tea leaves hidden in the opinions of Cuban Americans. We’ll also throw the line out farther and report the preferences of Cuban Americans for the 2024 presidential elections. Who would they like to see carrying the party standards? We’ll give you two guesses.