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Issue 57- November 2011


Cuba Facts is an ongoing series of succinct fact sheets on various topics, including, but not limited to, political structure, health, economy, education, nutrition, labor, business, foreign investment, and demographics, published and updated on a regular basis by the Cuba Transition Project staff.

Recent Cuban-American Voting Patterns*


     Much has been written in the past few years about a shift to the left of the political inclinations of the Cuban-American community. While a subtle shift may take place, with more recent Cuban arrivals, one thing is for certain: the Cuban-American vote in South Florida is still decidedly right of center. It is too early to tell how recent arrivals will vote, as many have not yet become U.S. citizens and those who are naturalized may be voting for the first time in the 2012 election.

     The table below presents the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade in the 2008 presidential election, in comparison to the general vote in the county. During exit polling, Cuban-Americans were found to be twice as likely to be conservative, in comparison to the general population. And Cuban-Americans are nearly three times as likely to be Republican.

    Cuban-American Miami-Dade vote in 2008 Presidential Election (1)

Miami-Dade, general
Support for McCain
Self-reported ideology
Self-reported party affiliation

     While George W. Bush received a greater percentage of the Cuban-American vote in both 2000 and 2004 than did John McCain in 2008, the table below shows that Cuban-American support of the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 was actually less than its support for the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Much is made out of the 35% of the Cuban-American vote that Obama received, in that it was significantly greater than the support received from the two previous Democratic presidential candidates. However, Cuban-American electoral support for President Barack Obama was less than that for Clinton in 1996. Thus, interpreting the 2008 results as a new voting trend within the Cuban-American community is an unmerited interpretation.


Cuban-American support for Republican Presidential Candidates

Florida, general
Support for Bush, 2004
78% (2)
52% (3)
Support for Bush, 2000
75% (4)
48.8% (5)
Support for Dole, 1996
60% (6)
42% (7)


     The Cuban-American pattern of conservative voting held true in the 2010 mid-term elections as well. But the critique is sometimes made that the Cuban-American vote is somewhat skewed as a result of local incumbents being predominately conservative. The argument is that were conservatives not given the incumbent advantage, the Cuban-American vote would be more evenly divided. In other words, the claim is that Cuban-Americans favor incumbents that happen to be conservative, rather than conservatives who happen to be incumbents. However, one can look at two recent electoral competitions in which there were no incumbents, thereby removing any doubts posed by an incumbent advantage. The table below shows that both Marco Rubio and David Rivera handily won the Cuban-American vote, while only managing to get about half the vote of the general public.


Cuban-American vote for two non-incumbents, in 2010 (8)

Cuban-American vote
General vote
Support for Marco Rubio
Support for David Rivera


     One of the reasons for the seeming dichotomy between the Cuban-American community’s reported change in political inclinations and the consistently conservative vote of the community may be that many new (and not so new) Cuban arrivals have not yet become citizens, and do not vote. Of course, there are also Cuban-Americans who have become U.S. citizens, but have no desire to vote or exert any influence in the political matters of the United States.

     The table below exhibits the citizenship rates of the Cuban-American community by year of entry. If one analyzes the Cuban-American community and breaks it down into its constituent parts along these lines, the extensive difference in citizenship rates between the groups is notable. Thus, the political influence exerted by each of these sub-groups is disproportional. Taking this difference into consideration, it becomes abundantly clear why the “shift” reported by various surveys is not exhibited in elections and why the Cuban-American vote is likely to remain conservative for the foreseeable future.


Cuban-American citizenship rates (9)

Year of entry
Citizenship rate
Before 1980
Between 1980-1990
After 1990


(1) Bishin, Benjamin, Feryal Cherif, Andy Gomez, and Casey Klofstad. “Miami-Dade’s Cuban American Voters in the 2008 Election.” Cuban Affairs. Feb 2009. Vol 4, Issue 1.
(2) “Among Florida’s Hispanics, Voter Registration Swings Democrat.” Pew Hispanic Center. 2008.
(3) “Florida.” The Washington Post. Post Politics. November 2004.
(4) Hill, Kevin and Dario Moreno. “Battleground Florida.” In Louis Desipio, editor. Latino Politics and the 2000 Elections. Westview, 2004.
(5) Florida Department of State Division of Elections. November 7, 2000, General Election.
(6) Hill, Kevin and Dario Moreno.
(7) 1996 Presidential General Election Results – Florida.” U.S. Election Atlas.
(8) Dr. Moreno, Dario. “Cuban-American Vote in Florida.” November 2010.
(9) Pew Hispanic Center. “Cubans in the United States.” August 2006.


*This report was prepared by Vanessa Lopez, Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.


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