Guillermo J. Grenier, a sociology professor at Florida International University, presented his research on the Republican party’s popularity among Cuban American voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla. during a Friday webinar.
The event was hosted by Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in collaboration with Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The discussion was moderated by Alejandro de la Fuente, Harvard professor of African and African American Studies and of History.
The event focused on an analysis of a poll Grenier conducted, in which Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County were called at random and asked about their opinion on a variety of different political subjects.
Based on his poll results, Grenier said he can project with a low margin of error that President Donald J. Trump will receive around 60 percent of the Cuban American vote in Miami-Dade County in the election.
Both Grenier and Steven R. Levitsky, DRCLAS director and Government professor, said Cuban Americans have, historically, strongly identified with the Republican Party. Levitsky explained that many Cuban Americans registered as Republicans during the Cold War due to the GOP’s firm stance against Fidel Castro’s communist regime.
“The sort of militantly anti-communist rhetoric, that sort of Cold War-like rhetoric, of the Trump administration — for most Americans, it just sounds silly,” Levitsky said. “But in a place where you get these renewed Cold War sentiments and very strong feelings about socialist dictatorships — people who are either descendants of Cuban exiles or actual Venezuelan exiles — that actually struck some chord.”
Levitsky said these historical ties between the Republican Party and Cuban Americans could have far-reaching implications for the election as a whole.
“That identification leads them to sort of buy more strongly into the ‘Trump built a strong economy’ narrative,” Levitsky said. “There’s certainly a world in which it helps tip Florida to Trump on Tuesday.
Grenier, Levitsky, and de la Fuente all said that, while the voting priorities of Cuban Americans may have historically centered on the United States’ policy toward Cuba, that is not what drives most voters today.
In an interview after the event, de la Fuente further highlighted Grenier’s identification of a shift in voting preferences.
“I think the most interesting finding here is that Cuban Americans vote on issues that are not primarily related to Cuba. We tend to think about that community as voting always on Cuba policies. And Cuba policies are a distant fifth place or sixth place in terms of their voting preferences,” de la Fuente said. “They're voting on economic issues. They're voting on immigration issues. They're voting on healthcare — which is pretty much how most Americans vote.”