WASHINGTON, D.C. — Only a quarter of Americans say they see Cuba as a serious threat to the United States, and most approve of the Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the government’s list of state sponsors of terror.
A new CNN/ORC poll finds 27% describe Cuba as a very or moderately serious threat to the U.S., including just 6% who call it a “very serious” threat. That’s well below the share who rate ISIS (68%), Iran (39%), North Korea (32%), Russia (25%) or China (18%) a big threat. In fact, a majority, 52%, say they see Cuba as no threat at all to the United States.
The poll finds 59% of Americans approve of the decision to remove Cuba from the terror list, 38% disapprove. The lack of perceived threat buoys support for Obama’s decision, an act widely seen as a necessary step before the two countries could fully restore diplomatic relations. A December CNN/ORC poll found 63% in favor of re-establishing diplomatic relations.
In the new poll, Democrats (77%) and independents (60%) largely approve of Obama’s decision, while 61% of Republicans disapprove. At the same time, Republicans are more apt to see Cuba as a threat. While 62% of Democrats and 53% of independents say Cuba is “no threat at all,” just 37% of Republicans agree with that assessment.
Younger Americans are far more apt to approve of the Obama administration’s change in policy than are older ones, though majorities across age ranges approve. Nearly two-thirds (64%) under age 50 approve of the decision, compared with 53% among those age 50 or older. Older Americans are more apt to see a threat from the island nation, 34% say it’s at least a moderate threat vs. 21% among those under age 50.
Education also divides views on the Obama administration’s policy change. Those with more formal education are also more likely to approve of the change than those without, 65% who have attended college approve compared with 50% among those who have not attended college. There’s less of a gap in perceived threat by education, though, with 24% who’ve attended college calling Cuba a threat compared with 31% of those without any college education.
The current poll matches other recent polling showing few see Cuba as a threat to the United States. A 1983 survey found 68% of adults thought Cuba was a moderately or very serious threat. By the 1990s, that had dropped to 36%, and now just a quarter of all Americans believe that Cuba represents a threat.
Interviews conducted April 16-19 by telephone with 1,018 adult Americans.