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Unthawing of Cuba relations growing more likely

A new Atlantic Council poll finds that 56 percent of Americans favor normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba. In Florida, traditionally considered the bastion of vehemently anti-Castro Cuban voters, it’s 63 percent. Democrats show greater support for lifting the embargo, but even 52 percent of Republicans now want normalization. A much smaller sample of voters of Cuban descent shows support for normalization at more than 70 percent.

Numbers like these are why politicians such as Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist feel comfortable stating that the half-century-old embargo has been ineffective. But it’s also important to keep the enthusiasm gap in mind.

A majority of Americans, even a majority of Cuban-Americans in Florida (who also supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney), may now oppose the embargo, but older voters with visceral personal experience of Castro’s Cuba feel more strongly about it. The number of people whose votes and donations are determined by their support for the embargo may be dwindling, but it’s probably still greater than the number whose vote and donations are determined by opposition to it.

Still, the numbers indicate the downside isn’t as bad as it once was. The reactions to Obama’s handshake with Raúl Castro turned out to be fairly mild. Could something more dramatic be coming?

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics.

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