A recent survey indicates that many Cubans view their country’s current condition as “very bad.” Cubans said they are personally affected by the high cost of living and lack of housing. Public services in Cuba are also far below the public’s expectations. However, despite the economic hardships they face, Cubans said they would want to hold free elections as the first priority area for improvement.
The Voice of Havana survey, conducted in late 2007, interviewed 150 Cuban citizens in the capital city of Havana. The survey represents one of the few independent quantitative surveys conducted in Cuba in recent years. The Voice of Havana sought candid views from Habaneros (Havana citizens) on a variety of topics, ranging from the state of infrastructure, human rights, government effectiveness, corruption, health, and education.
Residents from 10 of Havana’s 15 municipalities—from Boyeros to Habana del Este—responded to nearly 100 quantitative questions. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80 years old, averaging 42 years of age, with a male-female ratio of 49-51 respectively. Of those interviewed 59 percent were working professionals, while the remaining 41 percent were students, retirees, unemployed or worked in the informal economy.
Since the sample only included participants from Havana, the results are not representative of the views of the entire Cuban population. Still, the survey reveals important insights into public opinion regarding the current political, economic and social landscape in Cuba. Further research should be conducted in the provinces to better understand citizen opinions throughout the island.
The Situation in Cuba Today
Sixty percent of Cubans interviewed assessed the current situation in their country as “very bad.” Not a single respondent qualified the situation as “very good,” and 76 percent predicted that it would get worse in the next two years. Respondents also said they felt personally affected by a variety of problems, including the high cost of living, the lack of security, corruption, lack of housing and human rights violations. When asked to identify the most important problem in Cuba today, 92 percent identified the high cost of living, the lack of freedom and respect for human rights, and the lack of infrastructure. These issues were chosen over others, such as crime, lack of medicines, or unemployment.
When asked about the cause of problems in Cuba, more than a third of respondents pointed to the government’s ineffective economic policies. An overwhelming 87 percent gave the government’s economic policies a poor rating, with 70 percent expecting the situation to worsen in the future. Respondents also named high levels of corruption and the government’s lack of transparency as other major sources of the country’s problems. More than 76 percent of respondents felt the administrative burden constituted by the government is very high, and believe that government inefficiencies have caused serious damage to the economy.
When asked for opinions of several government services, respondents expressed sharp dissatisfaction with many public services and institutions. Between 65 and 80 percent of respondents were very dissatisfied with transportation services, the police, and information services (media, television and internet). Infrastructure is generally perceived to be in poor condition with over 70 percent of respondents saying they were very dissatisfied with the state of infrastructure overall in Cuba. Respondents expressed less dissatisfaction with health and education services, with only 25 and 23 percent saying they were dissatisfied, respectively.
The Black Market
Respondents estimated that nearly 65 percent of all commercial activities in Cuba are unofficial or go undeclared. Younger respondents placed this number much higher at 72 percent, while those respondents age fifty and older cited 56 percent of activities as unofficial. This difference in perception between generations may reflect the younger population’s heightened awareness of or exposure to unofficial activities as compared with older Cubans. Despite the difference in opinion, only 26 of the 150 total respondents counted less than 50 percent of commercial activities as unofficial, indicating that Cubans are well aware of the scale of activities within the informal economy.
Looking to the Future
Despite the current economic hardships affect Cubans on a daily basis, many would still prioritize free elections. If given the chance to improve things, one third of Voice of Havana respondents said they would start with holding free elections on a regular basis. Other priority areas for improvement included privatizing the economy and increasing the average salary for workers. This gives hope that many Cubans believe that free and fair elections can bring positive change to Cuba.
For the full results from the Voice of Havana Survey, click here
 An independent survey was carried out by Solidaridad Española con Cuba in late 2005 (http://www.solidaridadconcuba.com/noticias/encuesta.htm). The Gallup Organization conducted a survey in 2006 (http://media.gallup.com/WorldPoll/PDF/TFCuba022207.pdf). In early 2007, the Cuban government released the results of its own survey (http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2006-12-31/dibujo-de-la-cuba-futura/). The International Republican Institute also conducted two surveys, one in late 2007 (http://www.iri.org/lac/cuba/pdfs/2007-10-18-cuba.pdf) and another in early 2008 (http://www.iri.org/lac/cuba/pdfs/2008%20June%205%20Survey%20of%20Cuban%20Public%20Opinion,% 20March%2014-April%2012,%202008.pdf).