AN ‘UNPRECEDENTED SHIFT’ ON U.S. POLICY TOWARDS CUBA…. For more than a half-century, the U.S. policy towards Cuba was clear, consistent, and woefully ineffectual. The idea was to break off ties and impose a trade embargo, which would pressure the Castro regime and help improve the plight of the Cuban people. That was nearly 57 years ago. We have precious little to show for it.

The status quo has persevered, through administrations from both parties. Politicians feared offending the Cuban-American community, which is uniquely strong in vote-rich Florida, and which has made clear over the years that any thawing in relations would be unacceptable.

As time has passed, feelings have changed. Younger Cuban Americans look at the policy far differently than their parents and grandparents. It’s led to a sea-change in public opinion.

In an unprecedented shift in attitude that could affect Cuba policy for the incoming administration of Barack Obama, more than one out of two Miami-Dade Cuban Americans think the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba should end, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by Florida International University’s Institute for Public Opinion Research and funded by the Brookings Institution and the Cuba Study Group, indicates that 55 percent of those polled favor discontinuing the trade embargo imposed in 1962. Sixty-five percent favor reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

”The poll has an extraordinary historical importance,” said Guarione Diaz, president of the Cuban American National Council, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Miami.

The results, particularly as they relate to the embargo, reflect ”the fact that the Cuban Americans who were born in the United States or left after 1980 do not have the same vision as those who came in the 60s,” Diaz said.

Barack Obama was the first major presidential candidate since 1962 to embrace a dramatic change in U.S. policy towards Cuba. There were significant political risks associated with the move, but Obama did it anyway, and still managed to win Florida’s 27 electoral votes.

Moving forward, it seemed Obama might face stiff resistance to changing the policy from South Florida. If this poll is accurate, that’s not going to happen. When clear majorities of Cuban Americans want to end the embargo and reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, you know the status quo has become indefensible.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.