Ninety percent of Trump voters are optimistic about the next four years with Trump as president, an Economist/YouGov survey of American voters, conducted on the eve of inauguration, found. A majority of Trump voters—57 percent—rated the incoming president very favorably, and another 36 percent rated him somewhat favorably. But only 48 percent reported liking Trump “a lot” as a person, while 36 percent said they like him “somewhat.” Put another way: The vast majority of Trump voters like him personally to some degree, but even among his own supporters he is far from universally beloved.
Trump’s struggle to win over the American public as a whole—along with the generally positive, yet not entirely approving, views that Trump voters have of their candidate, is a fitting aftermath to what could be fairly described as a lesser-of-two-evils election. Trump and Clinton, after all, were historically unpopular presidential candidates. Had Clinton won the election, a similar dynamic would likely be playing out among Democrats since many of her supporters cast a vote for her primarily because they didn’t want Trump as their next president.
Still, if most of Trump’s voters don’t actually like him a lot as an individual, then what do they think are his flaws, do they have any concerns about the incoming administration, and what explains their optimism for the future all the same?
One reason for optimism among Trump voters is they wanted change, and they got it. Trump lacks political experience, and has never held political office, a quality that appealed to his supporters at a time when public trust in institutions remains historically low.
A number of Trump supporters I spoke with this week, many of whom were in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, expressed optimism about Trump’s political outsider status, but readily admitted it creates a lot of uncertainty. “He’s just a different kind of president, and I’m looking at that as kind of exciting,” said Lynn Hargest, a Trump voter from Falls Church, Virginia, who hopes to attend Friday’s inauguration ceremony. “We’re all taking a chance. Even a lot of the Trump voters I know, we look at it like you’re taking a chance. We don’t really know what we’re going to get sometimes,” she added. “A lot of people voted Trump because they didn’t want Hillary. It wasn’t so much that they love him so much, but he does grow on you. He did grow on me.”
For some Trump voters, though, that uncertainty has caused anxiety. “The lack of experience is good and bad,” said Doug Baker, a 55-year-old Trump voter who traveled to Washington from North Carolina for the inauguration. “A new direction isn’t necessarily bad, but not knowing where the trip wires are, and who to rub right and wrong could be an issue.” When it comes to foreign policy, Baker feels particularly concerned about Trump’s inexperience. “We have to get along with China, with Russia, with what have historically been either adversaries or allies, depending on the situation,” he said. “What I’d really like to see is that the world says, ‘It’s okay,’ because everybody’s nervous right now. They’ve never seen this before.”