Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump Voters Harbor Mixed Feelings Ahead of Inauguration

Voters like Deborah Forster, an independent in Michigan, are part of a pivotal group who harbored reservations about Donald Trump but helped put him in the Oval Office. PHOTO: FABRIZIO COSTANTINI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Wall Street Journal

President-elect Donald Trump owes his election in 2016 in part to voters like Deborah Forster, an independent in Michigan who had deeply mixed feelings about the Republican nominee.

Ms. Forster, a 52-year-old attorney, voted for Mr. Trump mostly because she didn’t want Democrat Hillary Clinton to win. Now she is nervously watching as he prepares to enter the White House. She likes some of his cabinet picks, but isn’t pleased with his penchant for sending harsh tweets about everything from the U.S. intelligence community to actress Meryl Streep.

“I am hoping that Trump begins to speak and act like the intelligent businessman that I’m sure he is,” she said. “I’m hoping he stops tweeting like a 13-year-old boy and starts acting like an adult.”

Ms. Forster is one of a pivotal bloc of voters who harbored reservations about Mr. Trump but helped put him in the Oval Office. According to exit polls, 18% of voters had a negative view of both major party candidates, and nearly half of them voted for Mr. Trump.

Their evolving view of Mr. Trump—whether their qualms are relieved or exacerbated by his performance—could tip the balance of public opinion, affecting how much leverage Mr. Trump will have with Congress and his prospects for uniting the country.

The Wall Street Journal identified a pool of these voters, people who said last fall in Journal/NBC News surveys that they preferred Mr. Trump but with some reservations and concerns about his temperament. They will be interviewed periodically through the Trump presidency as a window into whether he is winning converts or losing support.

Despite complaints from supporters, Mr. Trump shows no sign of giving up his use of Twitter. In a weekend interview with the Times of London, Mr. Trump said, “the tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press, so dishonestly, that I can put out [on] Twitter” a fast response that is viewed by millions.

Daniel Gallegos II, of Colorado, objects to Donald Trump criticizing corporations for moving jobs out of the U.S. PHOTO: THEO STROOMER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

A Trump transition team spokeswoman said Mr. Trump “is always going to be clear about his principles, honest with the American people and committed to fighting for American jobs.”

As of now, voters generally are giving him the benefit of the doubt. Many are pleased with his cabinet picks, but are uneasy with his attacks on people and broad, often confusing, statements of policy that he circulates on Twitter.

“So far I think he’s doing a decent job,” said Matt Triplett, 47, a Republican salesman in Dublin, Ohio. “But I sure wish he’d get off Twitter. The guy is a loose cannon. I’m going to sit back and be entertained by what’s going to be transpiring. But it’s a little unnerving.”

Mr. Trump’s high-profile moves to pressure companies such as Carrier Corp., an air conditioning manufacturer, to keep jobs in the U.S. is speaking to people like Cathy Coats, a former Barack Obama voter in Raleigh, N.C., who has been out of work for three years.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” she said. “If he does what we want him to do—on immigration, jobs—then he will be an excellent president.”

She worries that he is already easing off his demand that Mexico pay for building a wall on the southern U.S. border and softening his tone on immigration policy.

“I may be jumping the gun a little myself, but I am wondering why we haven’t heard anything about deportation of illegal aliens,” said Ms. Coats, 59, an Army veteran who had worked in marketing.

John Brickner, 78, a Republican former school superintendent in Wilbur, Neb., is eager to see the new administration roll back regulations of the Obama era, but was uneasy about Mr. Trump’s postelection rallies. “When he comes on with those damn rallies, I turn the TV off,” Mr. Brickner said.

Mr. Trump’s decision to nominate Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., to be secretary of state and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be attorney general eases his concerns. “The more I read about his choices the better I feel about it,” Mr. Brickner said. “These are people who will do what needs to be done. I like it that they are not all career politicians.”

Mr. Trump hit it out of the park for Carol Jansson, 54, a former home-school teacher in Acworth, Ga., when he picked as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a noted advocate for school choice.

Like many social conservatives, Ms. Jansson supported Mr. Trump because of his abortion policies. And one of her highest hopes for Mr. Trump is that he cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an issue that the president-elect has sent mixed signals about.

Polls indicate that Mr. Trump on Election Day benefited from some 11th-hour switches from people who had been backing third-party candidates like libertarian Gary Johnson.

One of them is Daniel Gallegos II, 53, of Commerce City, Colo., a post office worker and libertarian who now objects to Mr. Trump’s calling out of corporations over moving jobs out of the U.S. and his threatening to impose tariffs.

“Donald Trump appears to be economically ignorant,” he said. “I really don’t like the strong arm tactics on business.”

Mr. Trump’s success as president may also hinge on winning over voters like Beckie Toney, 49, of London, Ohio, an independent who was so turned off that she ended up voting for neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump. Still, she is willing to keep her mind open to the new president.

“He is the winner and we have to give him a chance,” she said. “You are the president and I will respect it. We need someone who will bring us together. We needed to get an outsider.”

—Peter Nicholas contributed to this article.

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