CALL IT THE CUBAN CONUNDRUM -- a problem for pollsters who find Florida Hispanics are far more Republican than anywhere else in the nation.
It's on full display in the latest Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll of likely Hispanic Florida voters showing President Barack Obama clings to a narrow 51-47 percent lead over Republican Mitt Romney.
But nationwide, the poll shows, Obama leads by a far bigger margin among likely Hispanic voters.
The difference in Florida: Cuban voters. Without them, the FIU poll shows, Obama would handily win likely Florida Hispanic voters 65-32 percent.
Not only are Cubans reliable Republican voters -- they're about 70 percent of Miami-Dade's registered Republicans -- but they're also more likely to answer surveys like the FIU poll.
"Cuban-American voters pick up the phone and answer. They want to be heard," said Eduardo Gamarra, an FIU professor of Latin American studies who conducted the poll with his political research firm, the Newlink Group.
The sheer response rate and strong backing for Romney among voters of Cuban ancestry has cropped up in other Florida polls. Together, the polls could be detecting an unrivaled intensity for the Republican ticket that could help keep Obama from a second Florida win -- and therefore a second-term in the White House.
Gamarra, a registered Democrat of Bolivian descent, actually had to scale back the number of Cuban-American respondents in the poll, a process known as "weighting," which he prefers not to do.
Gamarra stopped polling in South Florida all together when he concluded the three-day survey last week in order to reach other Hispanics -- those of Puerto Rican, Mexican and South and Central-American ancestry.
"Polling Florida Hispanics is extremely difficult," Gamarra said. "It's not just a Cuban conundrum, but it's a Florida and Miami-Dade conundrum."
Gamarra weighted the poll to reflect a Cuban response rate of 40 percent because Cubans, though they account for about a third of Hispanic voters in Florida, tend to vote in disproportionately high numbers.
The poll reflects a response rate of 30 percent among Puerto Ricans, who account for an estimated 28 percent of Hispanic voters in Florida and tend to live in Central Florida, where they vote more Democratic.
Thanks to the strong Cuban-American influence, Obama is barely winning on the issues in Florida, according to the poll of 1,100 likely Florida Hispanic voters. A separate poll of national voters sampled 1,000 respondents. The bilingual Florida poll has an error margin of 2.9 percentage points, the national poll of 3.1 percentage points.
Obama beats Romney 51-49 percent in Florida on who's better in managing the economy. The national Obama-Romney numbers on the question: 70-30.
On handling foreign policy or managing immigration, Obama edges Romney 53-47 percent in Florida. The national numbers: 71-29 in Obama's favor.
In Florida, 43 percent want to keep Obamacare intact; 35 percent say scrap it and 22 percent say keep some parts. Nationally, 60 percent want to keep Obamacare intact; 20 percent say scrap it and 20 percent say keep some parts.
Obama does best in Florida when asked who's looking out for Latinos. He beats Romney, 51-43 percent. Nationally, Obama wins: 70-27 percent.
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