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CBS Poll: Return Elian To Cuba

By a wide margin, Americans would prefer to see Elian Gonzalez return to Cuba with his father rather than remain with relatives in Miami. However, a CBS News poll finds many Americans view all the participants in this international custody drama - from Janet Reno to Elian's father - as having interests of their own, and don't think they are necessarily acting in the best interests of the six-year-old Cuban boy.

Fifty-six percent of those interviewed say Elian should go back to Cuba with his father, while 33 percent say he should remain in the U.S. with his Miami relatives. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor returning the boy to his father. Men are more supportive of this outcome than are women: 61 percent of men say Elian should return to Cuba with his father, compared with 52 percent of women.

What Should Happen To Elian?

Return To Cuba With Father 56%

Stay In U.S. With Relatives 33%

But many people see the participants in this battle as having political and other interests that take precedence over the boy's well-being. Opinion is closely divided on the motives of both the boy's father and his Miami relatives. And when it comes to judging the U.S. Justice Department and Janet Reno, and the Cuban-Amrican community that has been protesting the return of the boy to Cuba, by a wide margin the public sees both as more likely to be acting for reasons other than the best interests of Elian.

Participants' Motives

  Elian's Interests Other Reasons
Elian's Father 40% 42%

Miami Relatives 45% 41%

Janet Reno and Justice Dept. 34% 51%

Cuban-American Community 26% 60%

Assessment of Attorney General Janet Reno's handling of this situation is divided, as is the overall perception of her. Forty percent approve of the way she is handling the situation, and 43 percent disapprove. Public approval for Reno's actions in this case is higher among those who think Elian should return to Cuba with his father than it is among those who want him to stay with his Miami relatives.

As for Reno's overall ratings, 31 percent of the public views her favorably, and 32 percent views her unfavorably. In the last two years, unfavorable ratings of her have risen, from 22 percent to 32 percent, but this is more likely the result of last fall's renewed investigation into the events at Waco. Since last October, views of Reno are unchanged.

Views of Janet Reno

  Now Oct. 1999 Feb. 1998
Favorable 31% 30% 35%

Unfavorable 32% 31% 22%

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 834 adults interviewed by telephone April 15-16, 2000. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on both the total sample of adults.
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