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New Survey Conducted In Cuba Explores Cubans’ Opinions on Their Economy, Diplomatic Relations with U.S., and Their Culture

Press Release


CHICAGO, March 21, 2017 — Currently, few Cubans perceive their economy as excellent or good, and most say the situation has not changed recently, according to a new survey of Cuban public opinion conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. This new survey provides a rare glimpse inside Cuban society to understand its citizens’ daily experiences, their attitudes, and the goals they aspire to for themselves and their country.

“The results of this survey provide us with quality data about the views of the Cuban population, which is rare,” said Trevor Tompson, vice president for public affairs research at NORC at the University of Chicago. “The results show that Cubans are pessimistic about their economy but excited about the possibilities around normalizing relations with the United States.”

The survey also reveals that Cubans want to see fundamental changes to the economy, with a majority saying there should be more private enterprise, and many with a personal goal of owning their own business. Additionally, fully 95 percent prioritize a high level of economic growth as an important goal for the country, and more than two-thirds view competition in the marketplace as a positive force for this growth.

Key findings from the poll include:

  • Many Cubans feel stuck in the current economic climate. Overall, just 13 percent of Cubans describe the condition of the Cuban economy today as good or excellent, 35 percent say it is fair, and 46 percent say it’s poor or very poor.
  • Few Cubans think the economy is going to improve anytime soon. Three in 10 say the condition of the economy is going to get better over the next three years, 8 percent say it is going to get worse, and 47 percent say the economy will stay about the same.
  • Cubans have a slightly more positive view of the state of their family’s finances, though few anticipate improvement in the coming years. Eighteen percent of Cubans rate the current condition of their family’s finances as good or excellent, 57 percent rate their finances as fair, and 24 percent rate their finances as poor or very poor. Nearly 6 in 10 expect their finances will stay the same in the future, and two-thirds say they haven’t changed over the past three years.
  • Crime is seen as the most serious issue facing Cuba today, with 51 percent of Cubans reporting that it is an extremely or very serious problem. Another 4 in 10 say that poverty (41 percent), lack of internet access (41 percent), and corruption (38 percent) are each serious issues in Cuba.
  • In day-to-day life, many Cubans proceed with caution in placing trust in others and in expressing themselves publicly. Just 21 percent say they can always express themselves freely, while 76 percent say they must be careful in what they say sometimes.
  • Fifty-five percent of Cubans overall say the normalization of relations between the governments in Cuba and the United States will be mostly good for Cuba, while 3 percent say it will be mostly bad and 26 percent say it will have no impact. Thirteen percent aren’t sure what impact the easing of diplomatic relations will have.
  • Looking ahead, Cubans would like to see the government focus on economic growth and maintaining stability over the next 10 years. Fully 95 percent of Cubans say having a high level of economic growth is an extremely or very important goal. Nearly as many (87 percent) say it is very or extremely important that Cuba prioritize maintaining stability over the next 10 years.
  • Roughly two-thirds of Cubans (65 percent) say there should be more private ownership of business and industry, while 29 percent say there should be more government ownership.
  • Many Cubans have entrepreneurial goals; more than half (56 percent) say they would like to start their own business over the next five years.
  • Sixty-eight percent see competition within the marketplace as positive because it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas. One-quarter say competition is harmful and brings out the worst in people.
  • More than 8 in 10 Cubans say tourism to Cuba should be expanded. Most believe expanded tourism will improve the country’s economy and create more jobs. When it comes to potential downsides, more Cubans worry about the impact on the country’s culture than worry about the impact on crime.
  • Three years after Cuba eased some travel restrictions and eliminated the “white card” exit visa that required government permission to leave the country, 2 of 3 Cubans have a goal of traveling abroad in the next five years. Among those who want to travel, a large majority (81 percent) want to visit the United States.
  • When it comes to other countries, Cubans are very positive about China and the United States but are more likely to feel negatively toward neighboring Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Over half of Cubans say they would like to move away from Cuba if given the chance. Of those who would leave, nearly 7 in 10 say they would want to go to the United States. In a nationwide poll of American adults conducted in February 2017, 25 percent of Americans said they would move away from the United States if given the chance. Of those Americans that want to leave, none list Cuba as their preferred destination.
  • Most Cubans get their news from state-owned television stations and newspapers, Cuban radio, and family or friends. Just 1 in 4 use foreign media sources. But, even controlling for other demographic and socioeconomic factors, those Cubans who access foreign media are more positive about the national economy and their personal financial situations, more likely to be critical of some aspects of Cuban society, and more likely to set aspirational goals such as traveling abroad, starting their own business, and buying a car or home.

“The results of this survey provide us with quality data about the views of the Cuban population, which is rare.”

Trevor Tompson

Vice President

“The results of this survey provide us with quality data about the views of the Cuban population, which is rare.”

About the Survey

This survey was funded and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The poll was conducted in Spanish with in-person interviews of 840 adults. The survey featured a national random route-sample of adults 18 years and older in Cuba. The main field period was October 3 through November 26, 2016. The sample coverage excluded several areas in Eastern Cuba (with about 15 percent of the national population) that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew, which occurred in October 2016 in the midst of the survey fieldwork.

About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).