CBS/NYT poll: Majority want Gitmo to remain open

The White House got good news and bad news from today’s CBS/NYT poll. Let’s take the bad news first, even if it’s the same bad news that Barack Obama keeps getting in every year of his presidency. Despite his continued insistence on closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the American public continues to insist that they want it to remain open for business:


Since assuming office, it has been a goal of President Obama’s to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and last month he sent his plan to Congress.

But the public disagrees with the President on this issue. Fifty-two percent of Americans want to see the prison remain open, including most Republicans and independents. A slim majority of Democrats wants Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

Some people never learn. Poll after poll ever since mid-2009 has shown that the idea of closing Gitmo and bringing its detainees to the US remains deeply unpopular, and yet Obama keeps returning to that project every year. That “slim majority” of Democrats in this poll supporting Obama’s efforts occasionally shows up in these same polls, but they don’t show up in Congress in enough numbers to make their support felt.

And when it comes to relocating detainees, that “slim majority” of Democrats tends to evaporate on the ground, too:

It’s one thing to theoretically demand the relocation of Gitmo terrorists to the US. It’s another thing entirely to relocate them to your own backyard.

Obama gets better news on his outreach to Cuba, but that’s no surprise either:

Fifty-two percent approve of the president’s handling of relations with the island nation, according to the poll released Monday. Six in 10 Americans think restoring diplomacy with Cuba is mostly good for the U.S., but views are mixed on whether it will lead to more democracy in Cuba. …

In December 2014 Mr. Obama announced that U.S. and Cuba would resume diplomatic ties after more than 50 years. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support this, while just 25 percent oppose it. Most Democrats and independents favor re-establishing diplomacy, while Republicans are divided.

Americans have long supported this move. When Gallup asked a version of this question back in 1977, 53 percent of Americans thought diplomatic relations with Cuba should be re-established. While diplomacy may have resumed, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba remains in effect. Fifty-five percent of Americans favor the United States ending its trade embargo against Cuba.

As President Obama visits Cuba – the first for a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge 88 years ago – more now approve of the President’s handling of relations between the two countries. Fifty-two percent of Americans approve; a slight uptick from last summer and an increase of eight points since 2014. While Republicans may be split on the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba, a majority of them disapprove of how the President is handling relations with that country.


For better or worse, Americans grew tired of the embargo decades ago. (It’s for worse, as Cuba’s dissidents discovered shortly before Obama arrived.) The standoff has always been difficult to justify while the US engaged diplomatically and economically with other Communist nations, especially China but also Vietnam, as a means to improve their economic and human-rights records. Few have defended the traditional policy as eloquently as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and so the embargo has been seen as a Cold War relic that has produced nothing for the Cuban people. Unfortunately, Obama’s move will solidify the Castroites in Cuba when they might have had trouble once Raúl and Fidel shuffled off the scene, but Americans seem to care less about that than in opening up another potential vacation getaway spot.

Of course, the ability to do that may depend on whether the Castros demand the return of Guantanamo Bay from its perpetual lease to the US Navy. Don’t be too surprised when Obama tries to give it away to force Congress to absorb the Gitmo detainees into the federal prison system — because that’s the only way Congress will go along with Obama’s unpopular plan.

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