Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Polls Schmolls

Yesterday on Radio Mambi, Ninoska Perez Castellon responded to an article in El Nuevo Herald reporting on the introduction of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. The bill was introduced last week by Rep. William Delhunt [D-MA] and co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans. In sum, the bill "prohibits the U.S. president from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. residents, except in times of war between the two countries or of imminent danger to public health or the safety of U.S. travelers."

Phil Peters, Cuba expert from the Lexington Insitute, has hopes for the bill: "I think the conditions are good for it... The veto threat is gone and Obama has signaled that he is interested in revamping policy. I am not making any predictions, but is it a bill that gets introduced every year and has no chance? No."

Perez Castellon was outraged and described Rep. Delahunt as "anti-American" and "an apologist for the [Cuban] dictatorship." But, it seems that Perez Castellon was even more outraged with the local polling data showing support for Rep. Delahunt's bill. Perez-Castellon cannot accept that fact and has gone into denial.

The El Nuevo Herald article that Perez Castellon was referring to yesterday had an online poll attached to it. Perez Castellon could not believe the results. "Obviously they are not even scientific and lord knows who or how they are being manipulated," said Perez Castellon about the poll. She then began to insinuate a larger conspiracy:

"... in this poll that mysteriously is 75 percent in favor [for American travel]. That if you told me this happened in Arkansas, well OK it was in Arkansas, or in New York or in Boston, who are very liberal... no, no in Miami, right in the heart of the exile community. These are the results because this is consistent with the thesis that the exile community has changed. If the exile community has changed then the three [Cuban-American] members of congress would not have been re-elected." [MP3]

Later in the evening, Telemundo51 covered the same story on the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. They also asked their viewer to participate in an online poll. They asked: Are you in favor of easing travel to Cuba for Americans? From approximately 1500 votes, 82 percent(!) were in favor. The El Nuevo Herald poll had over 2800 votes.

These online results in fact support the scientific polling data presented by the 2008 Cuba/US Transition Poll, conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Research at Florida International University and supported by the Brookings Institution and the Cuba Study Group. The poll questioned 800 Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County, with a 3.6% margin of error.

In that Transition Poll, concerning the question of unrestricted travel to Cuba by Americans, respondents age 18 to 44 favored unrestricted American travel by 75 percent. Respondents who left Cuba from 1980 to 1998 favored the idea by 67 percent, while those who left Cuba after 1998 were in favor by 80 percent.

People who favor unrestricted travel to Cuba sometimes call Radio Mambi. Of course, their comments are immediately denounced and their person insulted. Perez Castellon calls them "stupid" on the air, while loyal callers are allowed to call them "ratas" or rats. [MP3]

Ninoska Perez Castellon does not accept any reliable polling data such as the Transition Poll, which she called "bogus" when it first came out. Nor did she believe a more extensive version when it came out in 2007. But, of course, she supported the results of a recent poll that contradicted the Transition Poll. This one headed by a loyal Republican firm, and called a "joke" by Phil Peters.

I doubt anything would convince Ninoska Perez Castellon, or any Cuban exile militant, that opinions on US policy towards Cuba are drastically changing in Miami. It's called denial.

[Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP, McCain supporters from 2008]