Cuba: End the embargo and travel restrictions

December 12, 2013, 8:28 PM GMT+0

Americans overwhelmingly think that Cuba is not a friend of the United States, but people also tend to support an end to sanctions against Cuba and the restoration of diplomatic relations.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, President Obama ended up bumping into an erstwhile enemy: Cuba's President Raul Castro. The two shook hands and exchanged brief greetings before they each rose to give a eulogy for Nelson Mandela. The move has provoked no little amount of controversy, with Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio - the son of Cuban immigrants - blasting the President's handshake. The handshake has raised hopes, however, that reconciliation between Cuba and the United States may be on the card, as in recent years Cuba has begun to liberalize economically.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans tend to support re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. 44% of Americans support re-establishing relations, while 25% oppose it. Democrats are much more likely to support (59%) rather than oppose (10%) the potential move, while Republicans tend to oppose it, with 43% against it vs. 24% who support it.

Despite this, very few Americans have any illusions about the current state of US-Cuban relations. Only 9% of Americans say that Cuba is a friend or ally of the US. 36% say that Cuba is unfriendly towards the US while another 26% say that Cuba is an enemy of the United States.

People don't just tend to support re-establishing relations, however: most people also support ending the embargo of Cuba. Currently almost all trade between the United States and Cuba is illegal according to US law, but 56% of Americans think that Cubans should be able to buy Americans products and 49% think that Americans should be able to buy Cuban products.

At the moment travel to Cuba can also be difficult for Americans, though since 2011 the Obama Administration has relaxed the rules, enabling Americans to visit Cuba for a wide range of reasons. Even celebrities have begun to travel to Cuba - earlier this year Beyonce and Jay-Z visited the island, officially as part of a cultural exchange. Over the past two decades, however, Cuba has become an increasingly popular destination for European tourists, who stay at luxury hotels that now dot the country's coastline

Most Americans - 63% - support allowing Americans to travel to Cuba, while 21% say that Americans should not be able to travel to Cuba. Opposition to legalizing travel to Cuba is highest among over-65s, while support for legalization is highest among Democrats, 75% of whom support allowing travel to Cuba. Even Republicans - who generally oppose efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations - tend to think that travel restrictions should be removed, with 45% saying that Americans should be able to go to Cuba, compared to 35% who say that Americans should not be able to.

Since the handshake between President Obama and President Castro, Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the US government is still highly critical of the Cuban government's human rights record and that the handshake was a product of the two leaders being invited to Mandela's memorial.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty Images

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