HAVANA – Cubans overwhelmingly expect detente with the United States to alter their widely disliked economic system, according to a rare poll of 1,200 people across the island.
The poll released Wednesday found less optimism about Cuba's political future, with 54 percent saying the single-party government would not change as a result of closer ties. The poll found that 53 percent of Cubans are dissatisfied with the political system and 52 percent want more than one political party.
Seventy-nine percent of those polled over 10 days last month by the Miami-based polling firm Bendixen & Amandi on behalf of The Washington Post and Univision Noticias/Fusion said they were not satisfied with Cuba's centrally planned economy. But 64 percent said they expected that system to change because of the decision late last year to re-establish diplomatic ties between the countries and move toward normalization. The poll did not break down the ways in which respondents expected it to change.
The results show the limits of a Cuban effort to lower expectations of better lives because of the Dec. 17 announcement by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro. Most Cubans were elated by the announcement and Obama's loosening of restrictions on trade. Many said it removed their government's ability to blame a stagnant economy and widespread shortages of basic goods on a half-century of U.S. isolation.
The government swiftly filled official media with repeated reminders that a U.S. trade embargo remains in place. Castro and lower-ranking officials also warned the U.S. not to expect any changes in Cuba's single-party system.
Eighty percent of Cubans surveyed in the new poll had positive opinions of Obama, while 47 percent had positive opinions of Raul Castro. Regional polls show a similar pattern, with Obama more popular than local leaders in many Latin countries.
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cuban media do not conduct polls using internationally accepted standards and unauthorized polling by foreign press or non-governmental organizations is illegal and extremely unusual.
Bendixen & Amandi vetted and trained locally hired poll-takers and sent them door-to-door in 13 of Cuba's 15 provinces, checking their data after it was collected to make sure it was accurate and representative, managing director Fernand Amandi said Wednesday. The poll had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.
While 75 percent of respondents told polltakers that they felt that they had to be careful about what they said in their daily lives, Bendixen said he was pleasantly surprised by their openness.
"We actually found them to be very candid, very frank," he said.
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