One-Quarter of Americans Now Believe Cuba is an Enemy of the U.S.

Public divided on policy towards Cuba, but many say President Obama should visit Cuba

NEW YORK--()--Almost fifty years ago the eyes of the world were on the interplay between the United States and Cuba during the Bay of Pigs and then the Cuban Missile Crisis. Luckily, those thirteen days passed with no major escalation, but the stage was set for ice-cold relations between the two countries for most of the next five decades.

Now, almost one-quarter of Americans (23%) still say that the government of Cuba is unfriendly and an enemy of the United States while almost two-thirds (63%) say Cuba’s government is not friendly, but not an enemy. Just one in ten (12%) say Cuba is a friend but not a close ally while 2% believe Cuba is a close ally. There is an age difference in attitude towards Cuba. Over one-third (35%) of those 55 and older say that Cuba is unfriendly and an enemy while just one in ten (10%) of those 18-34 say the same.

These are some of the results of BBC World News America/Harris Poll of 2,050 adults surveyed online between January 13 and 15, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

While Cuba may no longer be considered an enemy by a majority of Americans, it does not mean people are ready to embrace the government completely. More than two in five U.S. adults (44%) believe it is too soon for normal relations to be restored with Cuba while 38% disagree with that idea. One issue that is also splitting Americans is the embargo as two in five (40%) say the embargo towards Cuba should remain in effect and 36% say it should not remain in effect any longer. With Fidel Castro no longer in power, two in five U.S. adults (39%) agree that Cuba has changed for the better while 29% disagree and one-third (32%) are not at all sure.

Looking at who would like to visit Cuba confirms that most people are not ready to embrace the country yet. While two in five (38%) say they would like to visit Cuba if possible almost half of Americans (49%) say they would not. And, again, there is an age difference here as three in ten of those 55 and older (30%) say they would want to visit Cuba if possible compared to 43% of those 18-34 and 46% of those 35-44. There is also a gender difference on visiting Cuba. Almost half of men (47%) would like to visit Cuba if possible compared to just 30% of women.

Relationship with Cuba

Three-quarters of Americans (75%) say the relationship with Cuba is important while 25% say it is not important. And one reason for this importance could be the possible business possibilities. Some have argued that there is a large business potential for American corporations in Cuba that is lacking because of the trade embargo. Over half of U.S. adults (57%) say there are missed opportunities for U.S. businesses and 17% say there are not. One quarter of Americans (25%) are not at all sure.

When he took office, President Obama said he was going to make overtures to Cuba and attempt to better relations between the two countries. So far he has lifted some travel restrictions for Cuban Americans to visit the island. Three in ten Americans (29%) say this is not enough of an overture while 35% believe it is enough of one and 10% say it is too much.

While almost half of Americans do not want to visit Cuba, the same number (49%) believe President Obama should visit Cuba at some point during his presidency while one-quarter (25%) say maybe he should visit when Fidel Castro dies and 26% say no, he should not ever visit Cuba. Again, age matters as 35% of those 55 and older say President Obama should not visit Cuba while 54% of those 18-34 say he should visit Cuba during his presidency.

So what?

Fifty years is a long time but these findings suggest that, at least for older people, memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis last. Attitudes on many issues on Cuba are very different depending on if one is over or under 55 years old. And, even though he isn’t in power any longer, Fidel Castro is still a presence. Once he is no longer there, attitudes may change further.

TABLE 1
CUBA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE US
“Thinking of the government of Cuba, do you believe it is a close ally of the United States, a friend but not a close ally, is not friendly but not an enemy, or is unfriendly and an enemy of the United States?”

Base: All Adults

    Total   Age
  18-34   35-44   45-54   55+
  %   %   %   %   %
A close ally   2   3   1   1   1
A friend, but not a close ally   12   19   13   12   6
Not friendly, but not an enemy   63   68   66   59   58
Unfriendly and an enemy   23   10   20   28   35

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2
PERCEPTIONS OF CUBA
“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”
(Strongly/Somewhat Agree)

Base: All Adults

        AGREE (NET)   Strongly agree   Somewhat agree   DISAGREE (NET)   Strongly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Not at

all sure

It is too soon for normal relations to be restored with Cuba   %   44   19   25   38   21   16   19
The embargo towards Cuba should remain in effect   %   40   17   23   36   19   17   24
Now that Fidel Castro is no longer in power, Cuba has changed for the better   %   39   7   32   29   17   13   32
If possible, I would like to visit Cuba   %   38   17   21   49   15   34   12

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3
PERCEPTIONS OF CUBA – BY AGE AND GENDER
“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”
(Strongly/Somewhat Agree)

Base: All Adults

  Total Age   Gender
18-34   35-44   45-54   55+   Male   Female
% %   %   %   %   %   %
It is too soon for normal relations to be restored with Cuba. 44 36   43   47   49   41   46
The embargo towards Cuba should remain in effect. 40 28   39   47   49   40   40
Now that Fidel Castro is no longer in power, Cuba has changed for the better. 39 44   43   36   33   41   37
If possible, I would like to visit Cuba. 38 43   46   39   30   47   30

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 4
IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH CUBA
“How important is the relationship between the United States and Cuba?”

Base: All Adults

    Total   Age   Gender
  18-34   35-44   45-54   55+   Male   Female
  %   %   %   %   %   %   %
Very/Somewhat Important (NET)   75   74   80   72   76   70   80
Very important   19   19   18   20   20   21   18
Somewhat important   56   55   63   52   56   50   62
Not At All/Not That Important (NET)   25   26   20   28   24   30   20
Not that important   19   22   18   20   17   22   17
Not at all important   5   4   2   8   7   7   3

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 5
US TO CUBA OVERTURES
“President Obama said he was going to make overtures to Cuba and attempt to better relations between the two countries. So far he has lifted some travel restrictions for Cuban Americans to visit the island. Do you think this is enough or not enough of an overture?”

Base: All Adults

 

  Total   Age   Gender
    18-34   35-44   45-54   55+   Male   Female
  %   %   %   %   %   %   %
Too much   10   4   6   13   14   12   7
Enough   35   33   36   35   35   32   38
Not enough   29   31   27   30   30   37   22
Not at all sure   26   32   31   21   21   19   33

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 6
US BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN CUBA
“Some have argued that there is a large business potential for American corporations in Cuba that they are missing because of the trade embargo. Are there missed opportunities for US businesses?”

Base: All Adults

    Total   Age   Gender
    18-34   35-44   45-54   55+   Male   Female
  %   %   %   %   %   %   %
Definitely/Probably Are (NET)   57   55   58   63   56   67   49
Definitely are   16   13   14   21   16   22   10
Probably are   42   42   44   42   40   45   39
Definitely/Probably Are Not (NET)   17   16   13   17   22   17   17
Probably are not   11   13   9   10   12   10   12
Definitely are not   6   3   4   7   11   7   5
Not at all sure   25   29   29   20   22   16   34

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 7
PRESIDENT OBAMA VISITING CUBA
“Do you think President Obama should visit Cuba?”

Base: All Adults

    Total   Age
    18-34   35-44   45-54   55+
  %   %   %   %   %
Yes, he should visit Cuba at some point during his Presidency   49   54   52   47   45
Maybe, when Fidel Castro dies   25   29   25   25   21
No, he should not ever visit Cuba   26   17   23   28   35

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

This BBC World News America/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States February 11 and 15, 2010 among 2,050 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The Harris Poll® #29, March 2, 2010
By Regina A. Corso, Director, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

About the BBC AMERICA

BBC AMERICA brings audiences a new generation of award-winning television featuring news with a uniquely global perspective, provocative dramas, razor-sharp comedies and life-changing makeovers. BBC AMERICA pushes the boundaries to deliver high quality, highly addictive and eminently watchable programming to viewers who demand more. BBC AMERICA is distributed by Discovery Networks. It is available on digital cable and satellite TV in more than 64 million homes. For up-to-the-minute information on BBC AMERICA, forthcoming U.S. premieres, art work and news from the channel

Contacts

Press:
Harris Interactive
Alyssa Hall, 212-539-9600
ahall@harrisinteractive.com

Contacts

Press:
Harris Interactive
Alyssa Hall, 212-539-9600
ahall@harrisinteractive.com