Obama’s Cuban-American Vote Biggest Cast Yet for a Democrat

Photograph by Julie Fletcher/AP Photo

Spanish language election campaign signs promoting President Barack Obama hang on the windows at Lechonera El Barrio Restaurant in Orlando, Fla. The sign reads "We are united. Hispanics for Obama."

President Barack Obama won 48 percent of Florida’s Cuban-American vote, according to a Miami-based survey — the greatest share for any Democratic candidate.

Republican Mitt Romney won 52 percent, according to the survey of Hispanic voters in Florida conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International. The polling firm has done work for the Obama campaign, but says this study was conducted independently.

The ability of any Democrat to make inroads in the staunchly Republican Cuban-American community in South Florida has contributed to anyone’s success in winning the Sunshine State. Bill Clinton achieved that, in reelection only, with 35 percent of the Cuban-American vote.

Obama matched that 35 percent support in 2008.

It’s particularly younger Cuban-Americans who have been open to Democratic entrees — Obama benefited from their support in 2008, winning Florida by 2.8 percent, and this year, leading Romney by 0.7 percent in a statewide ballot count still ongoing.

This survey finds that among Cuban-Americans born in the U.S. Obama drew 60 percent support. Among voters born in Cuba, the president drew 45 percent support. The overall support of 48 percent of the Cuban-American community is a record.

“This is dramatically different from what we’ve seen in cycles past,” pollster Fernand Amandi said.

The 35 percent achieved by Clinton once and then Obama “had kind of been the ceiling for a lot of folks,” he said, calling the 48 percent for Obama measured this year “a kind of blow the doors down shifting” of sentiment.

Statewide, the survey found, 61 percent of Florida’s Hispanic voters voted for Obama, 39 percent for Romney. Cuban-Americans accounted for one third of this constituency, Puerto Ricans 27 percent, people of South American origin 22 percent, Central American 8 percent, Dominicans, 5 percent, Mexican-Americans 3 percent.

Among Puerto Rican voters, Obama drew 83 percent — a constituency that was particularly influential in his victory in Central Florida. Obama won Orange County and Osceola County, which is more than 40 percent Hispanic.

The growing Hispanic population of Central Florida and politically shifting populace of South Florida point to future opportunities for Democrats in the state, Amandi says. “Florida is following the path and trajectory that California went through in the 1990s,” he said. And “they’ve been the bluest of blue states ever since.”

“It is the Hispanic vote and strictly the Hispanic vote that delivers the 29 electoral votes,” he said, acknowledging that every race has its own personalities — and a contest involving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2016 would bring its own dynamics to the Hispanic contest.

The survey of 4,866 Hispanic voters conducted in five Florida counties
— Miami-Dade, Broward, Osceola, Orange and Hillsborough has a possible margin of error of 1.4 percentage points.

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