- Obama process to normalize relations likely reason for improvement
- Equal percentages in U.S. favor ending travel ban, trade embargo
- Americans have consistently favored having diplomatic relations
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As President Barack Obama and his administration work to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosen travel restrictions between the two countries for the first time in 53 years, Americans now view Cuba more favorably than they have in nearly 20 years. Forty-six percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cuba, up eight percentage points from last year, and a far cry from the 10% favorability rating in 1996.
The percentage of Americans viewing Cuba favorably has been mostly in the 20% to 30% range since 1996. This survey is the first time Gallup has asked Americans for their opinion of Cuba since Obama announced in December that he is working to re-establish diplomatic ties with the communist country. That announcement is presumablythe chief reason for the surge in positive feelings toward Cuba, with the president's action probably making it more acceptable to like Cuba.
Policy agreements or disagreements between the U.S. and a country often can affect Americans' favorability ratings of that country. Russia is one example. A long-time Cold War foe, Americans' favorability ratings of Russia soared after the Soviet Union dissolved, but they have soured since the conflict with neighboring Ukraine. France is another. Americans viewed the long-time ally in a highly favorable light for many years until France failed to support the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003. A decade after the debacle over "freedom fries," though, Americans' favorability toward France has returned to levels seen in the 1990s and before the Iraq war.
Americans' Interest in Re-Establishing Diplomatic Relations With Cuba Strong
While Americans have not always viewed Cuba favorably, they have consistently wanted to re-establish diplomatic ties with the island, severed in 1961 after the U.S. objected to the revolutionary regime led by Fidel Castro.
The majority of Americans have favored re-establishing diplomatic ties for more than 40 years, with one notable exception. After the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, tightening the embargo on Cuba, support for reinstating diplomatic relations dropped to 40%. It rebounded, though, by 1999 when it peaked around 70%, and has remained above the majority level ever since.
Americans Want to End Trade Embargo With Cuba
The trade embargo, which was concurrent with the U.S. breaking off ties with Cuba, is another aspect of the relationship that Americans would like to see changed. In Gallup's most recent survey, 59% of Americans said they favor the U.S. government ending its more than 50-year trade embargo with Cuba.
This is the highest Gallup has measured since it began asking this specific question in 1999. This support aligns with the other positive views Americans have toward Cuba. Experts say it could be a long time before the U.S. lifts its trade embargo against Cuba, but currently there are bills in Congress with bipartisan support to make the end of the embargo a reality.
Ending Travel Restrictions to Cuba Favored by 59% of Americans
While analysts have said ending the trade embargo may be a long process, there appears to be more momentum in Congress to lift the travel ban to the country. An equal percentage of Americans (59%) support ending of travel ban as do ending the trade embargo.
Americans are very positive toward Cuba right now and give the island nation the highest favorable rating in 20 years, although still slightly more view Cuba unfavorably than favorably. Americans support re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, ending the trade embargo and ending travel restrictions to the island. Americans' favorable ratings of a country are often motivated by developments regarding that country, and as there appears to be momentum in Congress to change at least some policy initiatives to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba, U.S. adults' positive feelings toward the country could continue for some time.
Favorable ratings of Cuba are based on telephone interviews conducted in a Feb. 8-11, 2015, Gallup poll with a random sample of 837 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Opinions on U.S. policy toward Cuba are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 14-15, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,016 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the half-samples of 513 national adults in Form 1 and 503 national adults in Form 2, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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