Poll finds 84% of Americans accept Trump’s presidency as legitimate
Gallup’s post-election poll shows that the majority of Americans (76%) were surprised by Tuesday’s results, and they found that Trump supporters feel “excited” and “relieved,” while Hillary supporters feel “afraid.”
Americans on both sides of the 2016 presidential race are reacting strongly to Donald Trump’s victory Tuesday: 80% of Trump voters say they are “excited,” while 76% of Hillary Clinton voters say they are “afraid.” A large majority (75%) share one reaction: surprise.
. . . . [W]hen asked whether each of six adjectives describes how they are reacting to the election results, Americans do not overwhelmingly identify with the most negative terms. Almost as many say they are “relieved” (40%) as say they are “afraid” (42%). About the same percentages describe their reaction as “excited” (35%) and “devastated” (34%).
The breakdown of responses among Trump and Clinton supporters and by age are also of interest.
Huge differences exist between Trump voters and Clinton voters, with somewhat smaller differences between Republicans and Democrats as well as between younger and older Americans.
- Sixty-six percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are “afraid,” compared with 11% of Republicans and leaners
- Sixty-three percent of Republicans and leaners are “excited,” compared with 13% of Democrats and leaners
- More than half of Americans aged 40 and younger (54%) say they are “afraid,” compared with only a fourth of those 60 and older (25%)
- The situation reverses for those who say they are “relieved”: More than half of those aged 60 or older (57%) say they are “relieved,” while less than a fourth of those 40 or younger (22%) feel the same way.
For some perspective, Gallup notes that the Democrat feeling of being “afraid” is the same as the Republican feeling in 2012 (yet we somehow managed not to make a complete spectacle of ourselves by vandalizing property, beating people, and otherwise behaving horrifically).
However, a comparison of reactions this year with those in 2012 shows the percentages of Americans “excited” about and “afraid” of each outcome do not greatly differ. Further, 66% of Republicans in 2012 said they were “afraid” when reacting to Obama’s re-election, the same as the percentage of Democrats who now say they are “afraid.” (In 2008, 53% of Republicans said the election outcome made them “afraid.”)
Obama’s re-election in 2012 and his subsequent inauguration occurred without widespread unrest or challenges to his legitimacy. The question moving forward after numerous anti-Trump protests Wednesday night and the threat of more to come on Inauguration Day is whether the anger and fear of those who oppose Trump will produce a different result.
Gallup also found that 84% of Americans accept Trump as a legitimate president. The poll was conducted on the Wednesday, so it was before the doomed attempts to get the Electoral College to anoint Hillary gained steam.
Gallup compared the results of the “legitimacy” survey to those it conducted in 2000 on the single point that Gore, too, won the popular vote but lost the election.
After Donald Trump’s surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton in the highly contentious 2016 presidential campaign, 84% of Americans say they accept Trump as the legitimate president, but 15% do not. Among Clinton voters, 76% accept Trump and 23% do not.
. . . . Gallup asked the same question about George W. Bush in December 2000, and found 83% of Americans accepting Bush as the legitimate president, essentially the same as the percentage who now accept Trump. That poll was conducted just after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to end a contentious recount in Florida, which allowed Bush’s original slim Florida vote margin to stand and effectively made him president.
Perhaps understandably, Al Gore supporters were somewhat less likely (68%) than Clinton voters today (76%) to accept the president-elect as legitimate. The overall numbers are similar, though, because Americans with no candidate preference in 2000 were more likely to accept Bush as legitimate than the comparable group this year is to accept Trump.
Like Gore, Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. However, Trump’s Electoral College tally is more decisive than Bush’s and not dependent on favorable legal rulings. Still, just as many Americans say they cannot accept Trump as president as said the same about Bush. Trump’s controversial statements, actions and policy proposals may cause some Americans to view him as unworthy of the office, even though his victory was beyond dispute.
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