Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Cuban-American Voters in Florida Shift Left

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What once was a Republican stronghold in the Sunshine State looks to have entered the final phases of a potentially devastating realignment for the party.  The Cuban-American vote has long been a solid support system for Republicans in Florida due to the party’s outspoken stance against the Castro regime.  They have also been an extremely important demographic to the Republican Party, as they have made up the plurality of Hispanic voters in the state, especially in Miami.

However, this year may have brought about a troubling reality for the party, as they nearly lost the Cuban-American vote to President Obama.  According to the polling firm, Bendixen-Armandi, which conducts Hispanic polling for President Obama, the president won 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida, compared to Romney’s 52 percent.  This is a record high for any Democratic candidate.

Many Republicans, especially Cuban-American Republicans, have denounced the idea that any real realignment is happening, pointing towards the still heavy presence of Cuban-American’s from the state in elected office.   However, the first Democratic Cuban-American, Joe Garcia, was just elected to the House of Representatives from Florida.

It is likely that this shift in voting trends is generational.  With many of those who were exiled to the United States during the Castro era beginning to die out, they are being replaced by a younger generation of Cubans who care less about a strong-arm against Cuba and more about issues like healthcare and education.

In fact, according to Hispanic Business, the younger generations of Cuban’s actually prefer that the United States lift its trade embargo and travel restrictions against Cuba.  In attempts to cater to the older generations, Republican’s in the Legislature passed a bill that would penalize companies in Florida that do business with Cuba.  Apparently, this backfired with the younger generations.

Younger generations also liked that President Obama had made it easier for them to go visit their families back in Cuba by loosening travel restrictions for those with family members in the country.  If this party shift among the younger generations of Cuban-Americans continues, it is likely that we will also see a foreign policy shift towards Cuba come out of the Obama administration’s next term.  Not only is there potential to see the trade embargo on Cuba released, but we could also see travel restrictions to and from the island be released.

Florida’s recent House Bill 1355, which was enacted by Florida’s Republican legislature, might have also back-fired on them this election.  The bill shortened the amount of early voting days and was also stricter on its acceptance of absentee and provisional ballots.  Unfortunately for the Republicans, the older Cuban-American voters were much more likely to vote absentee or provisional than the younger ones.  They were also much more likely to use the early voting days.

The generation gap of Cuban-Americans is extremely apparent given the exit poll data.  Obama won 60% to 40% among Cuban-Americans born in the United States, while Romney won 55% to 45% among those born in Cuba.  Given this, the Republican’s seriously need to rethink their strategies if they want to ever win back those 29 electoral votes.

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