A Rare Look Inside Cuban Society: A New Survey of Cuban Public Opinion

NORCUntitledNORC By: Jennifer Benz and Trevor Tompson, 21 March 2017

The Republic of Cuba is one of the United States’ nearest neighbors, but tight restrictions on the movement of information and people over the past 60 years means we know little about Cubans’ opinions about their society. A new survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago provides a rare glimpse inside Cuban society to understand its citizens’ daily experiences, their attitudes, and the goals they aspire to for themselves and their country.

After decades of economic sanctions and travel bans established by both countries during the Cold War, former U.S. President Barack Obama announced a normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014. The two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since the U.S. Embassy in Havana and the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, each closed in 1961, and these restrictions have meant that few Cubans have legally traveled to America, and few Americans have visited Cuba, over the past 60 years.

The nationally representative survey, conducted in the fall of 2016, reveals that Cubans are excited to see these restrictions come down. Most believe a normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States will be a positive change for Cuba. They are hopeful it will lead to expanded economic opportunities and a greater ability to visit the United States. Although generally positive about the impacts of normalizing relations with the United States, Cubans do express some concerns about the impact this openness will have on Cuban culture.

Cuban attitudes toward the economy, both present and future, are generally pessimistic. Although there is some private enterprise, Cuba’s state-controlled economy means that the vast majority of sectors are owned and operated by the regime. Currently, few Cubans perceive their economy as excellent or good, and most say the situation has not changed recently. Most Cubans also believe the country’s economic situation will either remain the same or deteriorate in coming years.

The survey also reveals that Cubans want to see fundamental changes to the economy, with a majority saying there should be more private enterprise, and many with a personal goal of owning their own business. Additionally, fully 95 percent prioritize a high level of economic growth as an important goal for the country, and more than two-thirds view competition in the marketplace as a positive force for this growth.

The flow of objective and unbiased news and information coming in and out of Cuba is limited, as private ownership of mass media is prohibited.  Although few Cubans access foreign media sources, the survey reveals access to be a consistent characteristic differentiating attitudes within the Cuban population. Those who access foreign media tend to be younger and more avid news consumers overall. In terms of their attitudes, they are more positive about the national economy and their personal financial situations. They are more likely to be critical of some aspects of Cuban society, for example saying pollution, unemployment, terrorism, access to medical care, and access to education are serious problems for Cuba. And Cubans who access foreign media are also more likely to set aspirational goals such as traveling abroad, starting their own business, and buying a car or home.

Funded and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the survey featured a national random route-sample of adults 18 years and older in Cuba and yielded in-person interviews of 840 adults with a main field period between October 3 and November 26, 2016.

NORC , 21 March 2017

Jennifer Benz, Deputy Director

Trevor Tompson, Vice President for Public Affairs Research

Cuba Infographic(1)

LINK: A Rare Look Inside Cuban Society: A New Survey of Cuban Public Opinion

Issue Brief: A Rare Look Inside Cuban Society: A New Survey of Cuban Public Opinion

Topline Results

Infographic

New Survey Conducted In Cuba Explores Cubans’ Opinions on Their Economy, Diplomatic Relations with U.S., and Their Culture

  • Fifty-five percent of Cubans say the normalization of relations between the governments in Cuba and the United States will be mostly good for Cuba; only 3 percent say it will be mostly bad.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHICAGO, March 21, 2017 — Currently, few Cubans perceive their economy as excellent or good, and most say the situation has not changed recently, according to a new survey of Cuban public opinion conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. This new survey provides a rare glimpse inside Cuban society to understand its citizens’ daily experiences, their attitudes, and the goals they aspire to for themselves and their country.

“The results of this survey provide us with quality data about the views of the Cuban population, which is rare,” said Trevor Tompson, vice president for public affairs research at NORC at the University of Chicago. “The results show that Cubans are pessimistic about their economy but excited about the possibilities around normalizing relations with the United States.”

The survey also reveals that Cubans want to see fundamental changes to the economy, with a majority saying there should be more private enterprise, and many with a personal goal of owning their own business. Additionally, fully 95 percent prioritize a high level of economic growth as an important goal for the country, and more than two-thirds view competition in the marketplace as a positive force for this growth.

Key findings from the poll include:

  • Many Cubans feel stuck in the current economic climate. Overall, just 13 percent of Cubans describe the condition of the Cuban economy today as good or excellent, 35 percent say it is fair, and 46 percent say it’s poor or very poor.
  • Few Cubans think the economy is going to improve anytime soon. Three in 10 say the condition of the economy is going to get better over the next three years, 8 percent say it is going to get worse, and 47 percent say the economy will stay about the same.
  • Cubans have a slightly more positive view of the state of their family’s finances, though few anticipate improvement in the coming years. Eighteen percent of Cubans rate the current condition of their family’s finances as good or excellent, 57 percent rate their finances as fair, and 24 percent rate their finances as poor or very poor. Nearly 6 in 10 expect their finances will stay the same in the future, and two-thirds say they haven’t changed over the past three years.
  • Crime is seen as the most serious issue facing Cuba today, with 51 percent of Cubans reporting that it is an extremely or very serious problem. Another 4 in 10 say that poverty (41 percent), lack of internet access (41 percent), and corruption (38 percent) are each serious issues in Cuba.
  • In day-to-day life, many Cubans proceed with caution in placing trust in others and in expressing themselves publicly. Just 21 percent say they can always express themselves freely, while 76 percent say they must be careful in what they say sometimes.
  • Fifty-five percent of Cubans overall say the normalization of relations between the governments in Cuba and the United States will be mostly good for Cuba, while 3 percent say it will be mostly bad and 26 percent say it will have no impact. Thirteen percent aren’t sure what impact the easing of diplomatic relations will have.
  • Looking ahead, Cubans would like to see the government focus on economic growth and maintaining stability over the next 10 years. Fully 95 percent of Cubans say having a high level of economic growth is an extremely or very important goal. Nearly as many (87 percent) say it is very or extremely important that Cuba prioritize maintaining stability over the next 10 years.
  • Roughly two-thirds of Cubans (65 percent) say there should be more private ownership of business and industry, while 29 percent say there should be more government ownership.
  • Many Cubans have entrepreneurial goals; more than half (56 percent) say they would like to start their own business over the next five years.
  • Sixty-eight percent see competition within the marketplace as positive because it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas. One-quarter say competition is harmful and brings out the worst in people.
  • More than 8 in 10 Cubans say tourism to Cuba should be expanded. Most believe expanded tourism will improve the country’s economy and create more jobs. When it comes to potential downsides, more Cubans worry about the impact on the country’s culture than worry about the impact on crime.
  • Three years after Cuba eased some travel restrictions and eliminated the “white card” exit visa that required government permission to leave the country, 2 of 3 Cubans have a goal of traveling abroad in the next five years. Among those who want to travel, a large majority (81 percent) want to visit the United States.
  • When it comes to other countries, Cubans are very positive about China and the United States but are more likely to feel negatively toward neighboring Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Over half of Cubans say they would like to move away from Cuba if given the chance. Of those who would leave, nearly 7 in 10 say they would want to go to the United States. In a nationwide poll of American adults conducted in February 2017, 25 percent of Americans said they would move away from the United States if given the chance. Of those Americans that want to leave, none list Cuba as their preferred destination.
  • Most Cubans get their news from state-owned television stations and newspapers, Cuban radio, and family or friends. Just 1 in 4 use foreign media sources. But, even controlling for other demographic and socioeconomic factors, those Cubans who access foreign media are more positive about the national economy and their personal financial situations, more likely to be critical of some aspects of Cuban society, and more likely to set aspirational goals such as traveling abroad, starting their own business, and buying a car or home.

About the Survey

This survey was funded and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The poll was conducted in Spanish with in-person interviews of 840 adults. The survey featured a national random route-sample of adults 18 years and older in Cuba. The main field period was October 3 through November 26, 2016. The sample coverage excluded several areas in Eastern Cuba (with about 15 percent of the national population) that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew, which occurred in October 2016 in the midst of the survey fieldwork.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.
www.norc.org

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Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at young-eric@norc.org or (703) 217-6814 (cell); or Ray Boyer for NORC at boyer-ray@norc.org or (312) 330-6433.

LINK: New Survey Conducted In Cuba Explores Cubans’ Opinions on Their Economy, Diplomatic Relations with U.S., and Their Culture

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