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How do Americans feel about reestablishing relations with Cuba?

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

In the wake of President Obama's surprise announcement of an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, 54 percent of Americans approve of reestablishing both diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries, while just 28 percent disapprove. Democrats and

Only 5 percent of Cubans are on the Internet

independents support reestablishing relations with Cuba, while Republicans are divided.

The President's announcement does not seem to have altered America's views on this matter: a New York Times poll conducted in October found similar views, and opinions today differ little from January 1977, when CBS first began asking the question.

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Evaluations of President Obama's handling of relations with Cuba are mixed: 44 percent of Americans approve and 36 percent disapprove. Even though the question of renewed relations with Cuba divides Republicans, they overwhelmingly disapprove (67 percent) of the President's handling of the matter. Most Democrats approve (72 percent), while independents are divided.

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Impact in Cuba

More than half of Americans (52 percent) think restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba will make the lives of the Cuban people better, but a third don't think it will make much difference. Americans are less sure about Democratic reforms. They are not convinced the agreement will lead to more democracy in Cuba.

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Nearly half don't think reestablishing relations will have much impact on that government. A quarter of Americans think relations will strengthen the Castro government (25 percent), while 16 percent think relations will weaken it.

Impact in the U.S.

At this point, most Americans don't know enough to say whether this agreement will be good or bad for the United States overall. More Americans, however, think it will be a good thing (28 percent) than think it will be bad (11 percent).

More than half of Americans have heard or read at least some about the recent agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to reestablish relations, but just 18 percent have heard a lot about it. Those who are paying the most attention view the agreement as a positive for the U.S.

Under the recent agreement, more Americans will be permitted to travel to Cuba, but a travel ban for most Americans remains in effect. A large majority supports allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba - including most Republicans (66 percent), Democrats (86 percent), and independents (77 percent).

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This poll was conducted by telephone December 18-21, 2014 among 1,000 adults nationwide. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher.

Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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