Miami-Dade Leaning Democratic as Cubans Age

Early voters in Miami-Dade County, Fl., have come out strongly for Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama. This is surprising news in this traditional Republican stronghold where the majority Latino electorate is now sharply divided among Latino voters by generation and country of origin.

A poll of Miami-Dade residents who have already cast their ballots found that an overwhelming majority of all groups--61 percent--voted for Obama and 31 percent voted for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.

But in a county where 55 percent of the electorate is Latino, there were major differences among voters based on their country of origin. Overall, 53 percent of Latinos surveyed voted for McCain and 47 percent for Obama, reflecting the strength of the Cuban vote in Miami-Dade, which comprises almost two-thirds of all Latino voters. Cuban-born voters, a historically solid Republican base, backed McCain with 69 percent of their votes. Venezuelans at 80 percent and Nicaraguans at 70 percent also went for the Republican candidate.

But among Latinos born in the United States, 72 percent voted for Obama. Voters born elsewhere in Latin America, including Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Columbia, also back Obama by 70 percent to 30 percent for McCain.

Voters also showed significant differences based on their age, with 72 percent of all voters under age 30 backing Obama and 64 percent of those 65 and older backing MCain.

Poll director Sergio Bendixen said the results were evidence of a coming sea change in the Florida electorate as the Cuban exile community grays.

"The biggest surprise was this great differential between the generations here in Miami and the Cuban community," he said. "People are talking about how the sons and daughters of exiles would vote and they thought they would be more liberal. But this is first time there has been enough of a sample of Cuban Americans born in the United States. And it shows them overwhelmingly becoming Democratic. That is the future of Miami's Hispanic community."

The poll's results point to a likely Obama victory in Miami-Dade on Nov. 4 as well as to a strong chance of him winning the state, Bendixen said.

"What we're seeing in Florida is that the most Republican county is breaking for Obama," he said. "The chances are that in Broward, Palm Beach and Osceola Obama has a chance to win the state.

"It's hard to see how Republicans will win if they are getting no advantage in Hispanic precincts."

The poll was based on interviews conducted between Oct. 20 and 29 by Bendixen & Associates. It surveyed 8,683 voters at 18 of 20 early-voting sites in Miami-Dade County.

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