The 2008 presidential election and the 2009 appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice reflect the growing political influence that the Latino population has on our society. Some critics of both the aforementioned political outcomes claim that President Barack Obama’s electoral victories in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, all of which are swing states, can be credited to the immense support he had received from Latino voters in those states (Bergad 406). However, it should be noted that, while most Latinos in the US have historically had a general demographic preference for the political left, Cuban-Americans have historically been more heavily inclined to vote for the GOP (Krogstad).
South Florida, particularly the metropolitan and suburban areas in Miami-Dade, boasts seven out of every ten Cuban-Americans. This demographic bloc is concentrated there for practical, easily-discerned reasons; Cuba is only 90 miles from the coast of Florida and its outlying islands, and historically speaking, there has been a Hispanic/Latino presence since the days of Spanish colonialism in Cuba. This high density of Cuban-Americans is politically powerful - and the power is shifting (Krogstad).
A Pew Research Center National Survey of Latinos of registered Cuban-American voters demonstrates a massive and rapid shift in the Democratic party's favor. In 2002, 64% were registered as Republican, with only 22% registered as Democrat. In 2006, 56% of registered Cuban-American voters were Republican or Republican-leaning with 36% registered as Democrat. In 2013, the numbers were close to even - 47% Republican, 44% Democrat (Pew Research Center).
Cubans are a unique immigrant group because they are guaranteed U.S citizenship as a result of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which “entitles all Cubans who arrive in the United States - with or without immigration visas - to qualify for residency status and five years later for citizenship.” Survey data shows that, since Cuban immigrants take their citizenship rights very seriously, a very high number of Cuban-American citizens exercise their voting rights compared to other immigrant groups and voter blocs. (Balsera 265). These Cuban-American voters have a tendency to vote for politicians who share their heritage and are committed to Cuban affairs. To respond to these Cuban-American voters, Cuban-American politicians openly express their opposition to the Castro brothers in addition to advocating policies with the potential to destabilize or dismantle the Castro regime (Balsera 266).
Although Hispanics have been historically left, from the American Labor Movement to today’s heavily Democratic demographic, Cubans have been an exception to the rule. With political figures such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Cubans have the reputation at least, of being more conservative. The influx of Cubans between 1959 and 1980 were politically motivated. With an armed revolution having just taken place, those who arrived were often the victims of the nationalization that was taking place and therefore businessmen. Being ousted by the liberal government and with wealthier backgrounds than typical Hispanics, the demographic Cubans represented were significantly different from other Latino groups who were often poorer and from different areas.
Coupled with the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by the Democratic Kennedy administration, the Cuban demographic was cemented as Republican for the next 40 years. As the demographic if Miami shifted, with economic migrants coming during the Mariel boatlift and more Hispanics from multiple different areas so did the political leanings as Cubans became less and less conservative with each decade (Klosfad). However, even today, the Cubans in Miami stand out for being more right leaning and perhaps a way for Republicans to pick up Hispanic votes.
The disparity between the Cubans that for political reasons during the 1960s and the Latinos that arrived later is largely in the economic background. As Hispanics of different origins arrived and those that exist there have had children, the demographic and opinions of Hispanics in the area have changed with less extreme opinions about the Cuban regime and being poorer (Klosfad). Although the Republican leanings of the Cubans in Florida have not disappeared, they have changed with the younger generation having no enmity towards Cuba, and having liberal social views yet maintaining their stance on other key conservative issues such as energy and policy in the Middle East.