Cuba Poll Shows Strong Support For Improved U.S. Ties

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2015 file photo, a Cuban and US flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. The highe
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2015 file photo, a Cuban and US flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. The highest-level US delegation to Cuba in decades kicked off two days of negotiations Wednesday after grand promises by President Barack Obama about change on the island and a somber warning from Cuba to abandon hopes of reforming the communist government. US moves to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosen the five-decade trade embargo have "the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere" and have "added up to new hope for the future in Cuba," Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

MIAMI, April 8 (Reuters) - A new poll conducted in Cuba found that 80 percent of Cubans have a highly favorable view of President Barack Obama, while 97 percent feel that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States will be good for Cuba.

The opinion survey released Wednesday is the most extensive conducted inside Cuba by an independent research firm since 1959, according to its sponsors, Miami-based Spanish language network Univision News and The Washington Post newspaper.

It is also the first study of its kind since last December's announcement of joint efforts to normalize diplomatic and economic relations between Cuba and the United States.

The poll by Bendixen & Amandi, a Miami firm which did work for both of Obama's presidential campaigns, was conducted last month through face-to-face interviews with 1,200 Cuban adults across the Caribbean island.

It found that 96 percent of Cubans reject the five-decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba. Almost 80 percent were dissatisfied with the Cuban economy, and 64 percent said the thaw with Washington could change Cuba's economic system.

Only 34 per cent said they believed that the normalization of relations will change Cuba's political system.

The poll came a week after a survey of Cuban-Americans, also by Amandi & Bendixen, found support for the White House's new Cuba policy has risen in the three months since it was announced, with 51 percent now in favor of closer engagement with Cuba, up from 44 percent in December. [IDn:L2N0WY12S]

The new poll was a "representative study of Cuban adults living on the island," Univision said, providing what it called "unprecedented insight into their state of mind."

"We are proud to present this historic opinion poll that captures a unique snapshot of how the Cuban people feel about the negotiations currently under way between the U.S. and Cuban governments to normalize relations," said Daniel Coronell, news director for Univision Communications Inc.

The poll also found as many as 55 percent of Cubans would like to leave the island, while 75 percent of Cubans are afraid to voice their opinions in public under Cuba's one-party political system. (Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Ted Botha)