By Rafael Lorente | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
WASHINGTON—Six in 10 Cuban-American voters say they are likely to vote for President Bush in November, a substantial drop from the votes he received in 2000 and a possible reflection of long-simmering tensions between exiles and a White House that some in the Cuban-American community feel has fallen short of its tough anti-Fidel Castro rhetoric.
Bush is estimated to have garnered about 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote in the 2000 election, in large part the result of anger over the Clinton administration’s return to Cuba of Elian Gonzalez, the boy rescued from a boat in which he and his mother and others were trying to reach the United States. His mother died.
In a recent poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, 58.4 percent of registered voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Bush in November. About one-quarter said they were undecided, with the rest saying they would probably not or definitely not vote to re-elect the president.
Bush won Florida by 537 votes after a disputed election in 2000, so any drop in support or turnout among Cuban-Americans is a cause for concern among Republicans.
“There is no Elian to kick around anymore,” said Guillermo Grenier, a sociologist at Florida International University and the author of the poll, which has been conducted seven times since 1991.
The survey was conducted Jan. 30 through March 16 by Florida International University in partnership with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and NBC-6.
The survey of 1,807 Cuban-Americans included registered voters and non-voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Several silver linings for the White House can be found in the poll results.
Bush’s support is strongest, between 63.1 and 66.1 percent, among Cuban-Americans who arrived in the U.S. before 1975. That group includes older exiles who are more likely to vote.
Cuban-Americans who arrived since 1985 and those born in the U.S. were the least likely to support the president. Among the 10 percent of Cuban-American adults born in this country, 37.9 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for Bush.
Overall, Cuban-Americans favor keeping the economic embargo of the island by a ratio of 66 percent to 34 percent. But the vast majority—74.7 percent—say the embargo has not worked well.
“The embargo is still a symbolic stick that the Cuban community feels it still has in its hands,” said Grenier, the poll’s author.