Cuban-Americans: Generational Shift Helped Elect, Re-Elect Obama

Photograph by Michael C. Bender/Bloomberg

Albert Gomez talks on the phone at his office in Miami, Florida.

Abelardo and Lucy Gomez, like many of their generation who fled Cuba, have voted for every Republican U.S. presidential candidate for the past 40 years.

Their son is another story.

Albert Gomez, 39, who works in the family business in South Florida, has a bobble-head doll of President Barack Obama perched on his desk. A self-described pacifist who campaigned against offshore oil drilling as a teenager, he has voted for a Republican presidential candidate just once.

“I’m very upset with my son,” said Lucy Gomez, 65, interviewed at her $2 million home in a gated Coral Gables neighborhood along a canal near Biscayne Bay. “He’s my son and he has a big heart. But Albert is a Democrat.”

Like Albert Gomez, the children of Cuban-American immigrants are increasingly likely to buck their parents’ Republican allegiance and vote for Democrats, according to polling data. This change helped President Barack Obama become the first Democrat in 68 years to win Florida twice and creates new hurdles for Republicans, who are searching for ways to win favor among Hispanic voters after losing four of the last six presidential contests.

Cuban-Americans account for just 3.3 percent of the 54 million Hispanics in the U.S., Census data show. Yet two-thirds of the nation’s 1.8 million Cubans-Americans live in Florida, creating a powerful voice in what has been the largest electoral prize for more than a decade among states considered competitive by both political parties.

Obama won 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida this year, nearly twice as much as Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2000, according to exit polls from Miami-based Bendixen & Amandi International, a polling firm specializing in Hispanic community surveys. The change is due to a generational shift in political views, according to the firm.

“The trend shows a real danger for Republicans,” said Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political science professor and adviser to Marco Rubio, the state’s Republican and Cuban-American U.S. senator. “They’re losing support among one of their strongest bases.”

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