Attitudes of Cuban Americans have undergone significant changes in the last 30 years, driven largely by an influx of immigrants since the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. But those changes are not reflected at the ballot box, nor are they likely to be soon, according to a study by Benjamin G. Bishin, associate professor of political science, and Casey A. Klofstad, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami.

Cuban American voters have strongly supported Republican candidates, despite moderating views of U.S. bans on trade with and travel to Cuba, the researchers said.

“Cuban Americans are distinctive among Latinos in their staunch support for the Republican Party,” the researchers wrote in “The Political Incorporation of Cuban Americans: Why Won’t Little Havana Turn Blue?” – a paper that appears in the online edition of the journal Political Research Quarterly. “Cuban Americans routinely vote for Republican presidential candidates at rates exceeding 65 percent, turn out to vote at very high rates compared to other Latinos, and are disproportionately concentrated in Florida, arguably the most important presidential battleground state.”

Bishin and Klofstad analyzed census, exit polling and other data in Florida – home to nearly 70 percent of all Cuban Americans – over a 20-year period and found that the factors affecting Cuban Americans’ attitudes and voting behavior are more complex than is typically believed.

For example, post-Mariel immigrants, who are more progressive on U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba than those who fled immediately following Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959, accounted for slightly more than half of foreign-born Cubans in South Florida in the 2008 election; however, 78.6 percent of the Cuban American electorate consisted of pre-Mariel immigrants. About 90 percent of those who immigrated before Mariel are eligible to vote; less than 46 percent of those who immigrated after 1980 are similarly eligible.

Although the children and grandchildren of the original exiles hold increasingly progressive views on trade with and travel to Cuba, less antipathy toward the Castro regime, and decreased identification with the Republican Party, their upbringing in staunchly Republican households tends to encourage voting the party line. Generational differences will help make the community more progressive with time, but not as quickly as many political analysts have predicted, Bishin and Klofstad said.