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World Affairs

Poll: Cuban-Americans' Opposition to Normalizing Relations Softening

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Are Cuban-Americans softening their views toward the hated Castro regime that continues to rule the island 90 miles from Key West?

Perhaps not, but a new poll from a Miami-based firm suggests that opposition to President Obama's initiative opening new ties with the Communist country is softening. A bare majority of Cuban-Americans back Obama's move, but that doesn’t mean anti-Castro politics aren't still a winner in Florida.

According to the survey from Bendixen & Amandi International, 51 percent of Cuban-American adults interviewed March 20 to March 25 said they supported the steps outlined by Obama, including setting up an embassy on the island and easing some economic and travel restrictions toward Cuba. That’s up from 44 percent in a poll the firm conducted in December, shortly after Obama's policy was announced.

Among those surveyed in March, 40 percent disagreed, down eight points from the earlier survey.

"In the three months since President Obama's historic announcement, rather than increasing opposition, the study reveals there is now slight majority support amongst Cuban-Americans for normalization of relations with Cuba," Fernand Amandi, principal of the firm, said in a news release announcing the results. "This is groundbreaking new data on U.S.-Cuba relations from the perspective of those most interested in and impacted by the change."

But Cuban-Americans living in Florida still reject the move. A near-majority of Cuban-Americans in the Sunshine State --- 49 percent --- oppose Obama's initiative, while 41 percent support it. That's a contrast with the 69 percent of Cuban-Americans living elsewhere who back the president's move; just 23 percent oppose it.

The feelings of Cuban-Americans in Florida who differ with Obama helps explain why the state Senate has already approved a resolution blasting the move, and the House is likely to follow soon.

The poll also shows a generational split among Cuban-Americans that has become a topic of discussion in recent years. Those born in Cuba and those who arrived before 1980 disagree with Obama's policies, but those born in the United States and later arrivals support them. And while 69 percent of Cuban-Americans age 18-29 support normalization, the number declines with age, until just 38 percent of seniors back the move.

The survey included interviews with 400 Cuban-Americans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

GREG EVERS AND JON STEWART?

The conversation may not attract national attention, but Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, can imagine his Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee once again being late-night fodder.

On March 25, "The Daily Show," hosted by Jon Stewart, featured a piece on Gov. Rick Scott's reported prohibition against the word "climate change." The piece included an exchange from the previous week in which Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, tried to get state Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon to utter the phrase "climate change."

The piece was punctuated by Latvala onscreen turning off his microphone as he laughed at the end of the Koon-Clemens exchange.

"Wait, wait. Don't laugh," Stewart told his audience with the frame frozen on Latvala as he laughed. "That one guy needs the Heimlich. He's our first climate-change casualty. 'Why did I eat shrimp while listening to the speech.' "

But the latest potential fodder doesn't have anything to do with climate change. This time, the topic Thursday was a proposal by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, to reduce an annual registration fee on trucks modified to haul melons directly from the field to market.

"We haven't been on the Stewart show yet this week, so I think this is the next one coming," Latvala said before the subcommittee he chairs voted to advance the proposal.

Evers, who hails from the northwest corner of the state and has one of the deepest Southern drawls in the Legislature, wants to reduce the fee on school buses that have their tops cut off so farmers can load them quickly with watermelons.

"This is virtually a poor man's truck," Evers said.

As other senators asked if the bill would discriminate against other types of modified vehicles, or farmers hauling different crops, Evers said he'd welcome amendments at future stops that even specified "grapes" or "cannabis" as long as he gets his bill approved.

"You can put them in the back of a pick 'em up truck," Evers said.