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Cubans Are More Satisfied With Their Political System Than Americans Are

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Judging from the press coverage, there was one clear takeaway from a historic poll of Cuban public opinion published Wednesday: President Barack Obama is nearly twice as popular on the island as aging revolutionary Fidel Castro. But the more surprising finding, perhaps, was Cubans' general satisfaction with their communist system—as much as Americans are with their democracy, and in some cases even more so.

According to a January 2014 Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans are “dissatisfied with the nation's system of government and how well it works.” Meanwhile, 52 percent of Cubans are dissatisfied with their political system, according to the new poll by Univision/Fusion.

More than two-thirds of Cubans—68 percent—are satisfied with their health care system. About 66 percent of Americans said the same in a November 2014 Gallup poll.

Seventy-two percent of Cubans are satisfied with their education system, while an August 2014 Gallup poll found that less than half of Americans—48 percent—are “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied with the quality of K-12 education. (Americans’ satisfaction increases to 75 percent when asked about their own children’s education.)

Over the years, many have pointed to the gains made in health and education by the Cuban government, even as it repressed its population and struggled to create a functioning, efficient economy. “Cuba has become internationally recognized for its achievements in the areas of education and health, with social service delivery outcomes that surpass most countries in the developing world and in some areas match first-world standards,” a World Bank report wrote of Cuban achievements. Objective indicators, like the country's low infant mortality and illiteracy rates, have long shows that Cuba has relatively strong social services. This new polling data suggests that Cubans are well aware of it.

No such gains have been made in the Cuban economy, which explains why just 19 percent of Cubans said they were satisfied with their “economic system.” Cuba’s centrally planned economy suffers from serious structural defects, but the island's economic woes have been exacerbated by the decades-long U.S. embargo. Nearly all Cubans—96 percent—said in the survey that the embargo should end, but they don't seem to hold too much of a grudge against America for it: Of the 55 percent of Cubans who want to emigrate to another country, slightly more than half of them would like that country to be the U.S.