Partisan affiliation among Cubans has shifted dramatically over the past 12 years. In 2002, at least 64 percent of Cubans identified as Republicans and only 22 percent as Democrats, while today’s polls reveal a fairly even split: 47 percent Republican, 44 percent Democrat, and 9 percent without affiliation.
Pew Research Center has tracked these trends, noting that Cubans in the U.S. have long identified as, or leaned toward, the Republican Party even as American Hispanics have tilted to the left. To explain the shift in Cuban partisanship, Pew points to the “coming of age of “U.S.-born Cubans” who have different political experiences and contexts than their parents. About half of Cubans in the U.S. today are native-born, compared with 11 percent of Cubans who are at least 50 years old. About 56 percent of Cubans between the ages of 18 and 49 lean toward the Democratic party, while just 39 percent lean toward the Republican Party.
Considering the high levels of political activity among Cubans in the U.S., these trends matter.
“Among Latinos, those of Cuban origin have had some of the highest voter turnout rates. In 2012, 67% of Cuban Americans voted nationally, compared with 48% of Latinos overall,” Pew explains. “In the 2012 presidential election, the Cuban vote in Florida was split—49% supported Democrat Barack Obama while 47% supported Republican Mitt Romney, according to the national exit poll. Among all Latinos nationwide, Obama won 71% of the vote, compared with just 27% for Romney.”
Comparably, in 2004, George W. Bush won 78% percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared with 56 percent of Florida Hispanics overall.
About 70 percent of the 2 million Cuban Americans live in Florida.