MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Last Friday night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist called for an end to the Cuban embargo. While some GOP members immediately criticized Crist’s comments, the former governor’s opinion may be the prevailing opinion, according to new poll.
The poll, released by the Atlantic Council, found that nationwide, 56 percent of American favor changing the United States’ current policy with Cuba. In Florida, the numbers are even higher with 63 percent favoring change, including 62 percent of Latino voters.
The Atlantic Council poll found support for changing the policy is strongest among Democrats and Independents, but 52 percent of Republicans also favor normalization of relations with the communist nation.
Drilling down to Miami-Dade County, the Atlantic Council poll found support for the normalization of ties came in at 64 percent, or almost equal to the statewide number.
When asked why they would like to see the policy changed, more than six in ten nationwide respondents said changing the relations would allow Cuba and Americans to do more business in Cuba and allow Americans to travel and spend money in the nation again.
According to the poll, 67 percent of Florida adults and 66 percent of Latinos favor removing all travel prohibitions between the U.S. and Cuba.
Crist, while appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, when the host said, “I don’t see a lot of politicians from Florida having the courage to stand up to that small Cuban community.” Crist responded, “Well, I think they need to. I think it’s the right thing. I mean the embargo has been there what, 50 years now. I don’t think it worked. It is obvious to me we need to move forward and I think the get the embargo taken away.”
Crist said he thinks lifting the embargo would help encourage construction in Cuba which would be of great benefit to South Florida businesses, which would help encourage job growth in the state.
The reaction from Cuban Republicans was swift and focused on Crist’s political ambitions. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the move was that of “an unprincipled, opportunistic politician” while Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said Crist, “further insults the victims of that oppressive regime.”
While Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart remain steadfastly dedicated to the decades-old embargo, and still receive support from older Cubans, if the poll from the Atlantic Council is accurate, Floridians of all backgrounds are ready to move forward with a more inclusive Cuban policy.
For Crist, his calculation is to appeal to the growing numbers who want a new path with Cuban policy, while also trying to capture Cuban voters who have leaned Democratic in the past two presidential elections.
Crist’s comments opened the door for more discussions on the policy in Cuba, but whether it will be a net positive or net negative for him politically won’t be known for months to come.
The Atlantic Council poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent and was conducted between January 7 and January 22. The Atlantic Council is run by Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate. Among the Atlantic Council’s directors are: Henry Kissinger, Adrienne Arsht, Chris Dodd, Michael Hayden, with honorary directors including: Robert Gates, Colin Powell, William Perry, Michael Mullen, Condoleeza Rice, and George P. Schultz.