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Cuban-American Voters Remain Republican

Cuban-American Voters Remain Republican

UCR researchers find greater diversity on social issues, however.

(September 17, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Cuban-American voters remain strongly Republican, conservative and opposed to easing sanctions on the Castro regime, according to researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of Miami and the University of Exeter. But there is greater diversity on social issues, which may portend changing political allegiances once Fidel Castro is no longer Cuba’s leader, they found.

In a paper published today in the journal Cuban Affairs, the researchers wrote that the overwhelming homogeneity among Cuban-American voters in supporting Republicans, the travel ban to Cuba and the embargo on trade with the communist nation conceals much greater diversity of opinion on issues such as gay marriage, gun control and abortion.

The authors of “What to Expect from the Cuban-American Electorate” are Benjamin G. Bishin, associate professor of political science at UCR; Feryal M. Cherif, assistant professor of political science at UCR; Andy S. Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami; and Daniel P. Stevens, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter.

“Perhaps the most important nuance for understanding the prospects for Cuban-Americans’ political behavior is to distinguish between the views of Cuban-American voters and the Cuban-American community,” the researchers wrote.

While immigrants who have arrived in the United States since 1980 account for slightly less than half of South Florida’s Cuban-American voting-age community, they constitute only one in eight Cuban-American voters, the authors said.

“As polls show that these more recent immigrants disproportionately hold supportive positions toward engagement on U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba, the failure to recognize the difference between the community as a whole and those who vote may lead to mistaken inferences about the effects of attitude and demographic change on Cuban-Americans’ political behavior,” they wrote.

In 2004, 68.5 percent of Cuban-American voters in Florida’s Miami-Dade County identified themselves as Republicans, 16.2 percent as independents, and 15.3 percent as Democrats. A plurality also self-identified as conservative.

There is more diversity on social issues, according to an exit poll of Miami-Dade County voters in the 2004 election. Nearly 70 percent of Cuban-American voters either opposed or had no opinion on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; more than 70 percent favored increased restrictions on guns; and about 60 percent favor legalizing the importation of prescription drugs. They were almost evenly divided on whether abortion laws should be tightened.

The researchers found that Cuban-American women identify with the Republican Party at about the same rates as men (68.3 percent vs. 67.6 percent), but fewer consider themselves conservative than men (40.4 percent vs. 47.8 percent). Women are slightly more support of travel and economic sanctions than are Cuban-American men.

Bishin said he was surprised to find that women are more extreme than are men on foreign policy and social issues. “They are more conservative on the foreign policy issues and more Republican, but on the social issues are more liberal,” he said.

The researchers found that Cuban-American women are staunchly Republican, conservative, and supportive of policies designed to crack down on the Castro regime.

“To the extent that attitude change in the community drives changes in political behavior, because they both constitute a majority and hold more progressive attitudes on social issues, this change will likely start with women,” they wrote.

Cuban-American voters are likely to become much less monolithic once the Cuba issue is resolved as the Cuban-American identity becomes less central to everyday politics, the researchers said. Changes also seem likely to occur as the more recent immigrants slowly matriculate into the electorate and gain socio-economic status. Any inroads Democrats make are likely to occur only after the classic anti-Castro Cuban identity recedes, and is most likely to be successful by targeting Cuban-American women and their progressive attitudes on social policy.

“It would be folly, however, to conclude that Cubans would automatically embrace Democrats owing to their positions on social issues,” the researchers concluded. “While Cubans are liberal on some issues, on others they are still more conservative and Republican than the non-Cuban population. Consequently, to the extent that Cuban issues recede in importance, the Cuban-American vote is more likely to be up for grabs than it is to simply swing to the Democrats.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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