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    Just how do Americans see Cuba?

    Just how do Americans see Cuba?
    Nothing about U.S. relations with Cuba is simple. But a recent Atlantic
    Council poll examined none of the nuances.
    By Robyn J. Wapner
    March 6, 2014

    The Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council released a poll last
    month that has been touted by many as marking an unprecedented shift in
    support for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Media outlets,
    including the L.A. Times, jumped on the bandwagon, citing the poll as
    evidence that Americans are now eager for engagement. But a closer look
    shows that many of the most consequential results of the poll are based
    on push-polling tactics.

    Push polling is the craft of designing survey questions to shape and
    influence the results. In this case, several questions in the Atlantic
    Council Cuba poll appear to “push” respondents toward assuming a
    position against current U.S. policy.

    Nothing about U.S. relations with Cuba is simple. The many facets of our
    estrangement span such a spectrum of interests and time that few have a
    clear understanding of the intricate web of current policy.

    For example, despite the absence of official diplomatic relations, Cuba
    remains a major component of U.S. foreign policy. Unbeknown to many,
    official high-level meetings continue to take place between our two
    countries. Just last month, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Havana for
    semiannual migration talks. In addition, despite a supposed embargo,
    Cuba has purchased billions of dollars in products from the United
    States since 2001. And there are numerous ways Americans can get to
    Cuba. Just ask Beyonce and Jay-Z.

    Granted, not everything is great.

    A few weeks ago, United Nations experts reportedly concluded that a
    shipment of Cuban weapons to North Korea last summer violated U.N.
    sanctions. Since the 2001 arrest of Ana Belen Montes (a former Defense
    Intelligence Agency analyst who spied for Cuba for 16 years), there have
    been multiple cases of additional Cuban espionage in the U.S. As
    recently as 2009, Walter and Gwendolyn Myers (a retired State Department
    employee and his wife) were arrested for spying for Cuba for three decades.

    Cuba has also shot down aircraft and killed American citizens in the
    past; it is reportedly training armed groups in Venezuela; and it has
    been holding U.S. citizen Alan Gross prisoner for more than four years
    because he was providing Internet communications equipment to Cuba’s
    Jewish community.

    The Atlantic Council’s survey examined none of these nuances. It barely
    got beyond simple talking points. For example, the question that
    garnered the most touted finding read:

    “As you may know, since 1961 the United States has had no diplomatic
    relations with Cuba and restricts trade and travel with Cuba for the
    vast majority of American citizens and businesses. Would you favor or
    oppose normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba / the U.S. engaging more
    directly with Cuba?”

    And if a respondent answered no, he or she was subjected to this follow-up:

    “The United States has formal relations or at least talks and negotiates
    with many countries that are not friendly to us, have poor human rights
    records, or both, including China, Russia and Iran. Yet we continue NOT
    to have any relations or discussions with Cuba. Knowing this, let me ask
    you again, do you favor or oppose normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba /
    the U.S. engaging more directly with Cuba?”

    Another question asked whether Cuba deserves to be a designated state
    sponsor of terrorism. Those who said yes were prompted with this:

    “Thousands of Al Qaeda terrorists are in Sudan or Syria, and Iran has
    been aggressively building its nuclear program. Despite human rights
    abuses, Cuba poses none of the active dangers to the United States and
    our security that these other countries possess. Thinking again, does
    Cuba pose the same threat as Sudan, Syria and Iran, and thus belong on
    the state-sponsored terrorism list?”

    Ask a question enough different ways with enough leading statements and
    pollsters are bound to get the answer they want.

    Further, while the poll asked respondents about ways U.S. policy toward
    Cuba could be changed, none of the options provided the opportunity to
    demonstrate support for components of current U.S. policy.

    One of the takeaways promoted by the Atlantic Council was that “more
    than 6 in 10 people want all economic restrictions lifted.” But
    respondents were never actually asked about the total lifting of
    economic restrictions, or about current U.S. law, which does provide for
    the conditional removal of sanctions.

    To be fair, the highly complex nature of U.S. policy toward Cuba makes
    any poll seeking to gauge public perception difficult to pull off.
    However, rather than acknowledging the complexity of U.S.-Cuba
    relations, this poll centered on questions that made it seem the choice
    was an all-or-nothing proposition. This is simply not the case.

    The February poll is one survey, one snapshot of public opinion, and one
    that appears to have had an agenda. By contrast, millions of Americans
    have voted for and elected congressional representatives who have shaped
    and debated U.S. policy toward Cuba for more than five decades. Hundreds
    of thousands of Floridians continue to vote election after election for
    representatives who espouse a nuanced yet sanctions-focused policy.

    The only way we will know when Americans really want a change in policy
    toward Cuba is once they force that change through their representatives
    in Congress.

    Robyn J. Wapner is a former senior policy advisor to the House of
    Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs. She is a Western
    Hemisphere expert with the Poblete Analysis Group.

    Source: Just how do Americans see Cuba? – latimes.com –
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-wapner-cuba-normalization-20140306,0,900325.story#axzz2vBKjhghp