On Saturday morning, former vice president Joe Biden secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. The victory comes after four long days of counting, with Biden and President Trump in a tight race. Trump has contested the results, made baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud and mounted legal challenges in several states.
Since Wednesday, The Washington Post has been asking readers whether they were surprised by the election results and just how close the race was. You can read a selection of the responses below.
I knew America was better than Trump.
— Dianne Schel, 76, Portland, Ore.
Submitted: 12:17 p.m. Nov. 7
I was expecting a more decisive victory for Democrats and strongly hoping for a change in the Senate. I am feeling disillusioned, faced with the stark reality that almost half of the country still supports a candidate that has done so much damage to the moral backbone of the nation. But I am beginning to realize that if this is how it is, we need to stop demonizing the opposite side and find common ground.
— Carol Wessels, 56, Mequon, Wis.
Submitted: 7:54 p.m. Nov. 4
We had a Democratic candidate that many of us strongly disliked and only voted for because we hated Trump more. The Democrats have no new policies to put forward whatsoever. Nothing that represents the actual desires of the electorate. In a country where the only choice is between fake Republicans and real ones, there is no authentic choice. Biden’s only merit has been that he is not Trump. And the Democrats still haven’t learned their lesson.
— Sandra Ruffner, 63, Seattle
Submitted: 7:12 a.m. Nov. 6
I am totally gobsmacked. Expected a landslide after Trump’s failures, not a cliffhanger.
— Beverly Sims, 63, Pinehurst, N.C.
Submitted: 7:16 p.m. Nov. 4
I was hoping for a blue wave but felt in my gut we are a country divided. I am sobered to imagine that the Republicans will obstruct reform and further entrench distortion of our democracy.
— Oliver Jacobs Dougherty, 33, Minneapolis
Submitted: 9:58 p.m. Nov. 4
I thought conventional wisdom would prevail and Trump would lose by a large margin. I think this election tells us that we are talking past each other. Four years of alternate realities have taken their toll. However, this election also shows that enthusiasm for American democracy is stronger than ever.
— Dhaval Patel, 40, East Windsor, New Jersey
Submitted: 2:51 p.m. Nov. 6
I can’t believe people actually are voting for a socialistic government.
— Joanne Weis, 78, Denton, Md.
Submitted: 7:36 a.m. Nov. 6
Unfortunately, there’s nothing surprising about this election. On both sides, this election was about voting against the other side. Although Biden has a well-thought-out platform on many issues, the idea of voting Trump out of office was louder. On the other side, many individuals bought into the Republican fear-mongering that Biden is opening the door to socialism. If you only listen to conservative rhetoric, that’s what you hear. Our country is in a sad state. Election results won’t fix it.
— Joanna May, 42, Houston
Submitted: 1:26 p.m. Nov. 6
I expected the polls to be wrong, and they were, but I expected them to be COMPLETELY wrong and Biden would lose big and concede Election Night.
— Michael Buehring, 35, Dallas
Submitted: 1:44 p.m. Nov. 6
We are a divided nation, as reflected in the massive vote differentials between rural and urban areas, as well as the thin statewide margins.
— Joshua Arthurs, 45, Morgantown, W.Va.
Submitted: 2:24 p.m. Nov. 6
I was initially expecting Biden to win in a landslide based on polls and polling averages, hoping that Trumpism was fleeting. However, being scarred from 2016 I was cautious. This election highlights and mirrors the structures that the GOP has built and the systems they are willing to exploit to maintain white supremacy and power.
— E. Holder, 26, Gainesville, Fla.
Submitted: 11:50 a.m. Nov. 5
Dejected so many voted for what “any rational person” could see is a terrible human being. However, I’m also certain I know and like some of those voters, who are truly rational, kind, and good people. How do we even start the difficult and honest conversation to understand why they see the world so differently?
— Dan B, 50, Philadelphia
Submitted: 2:26 p.m. Nov. 6
I was expecting Trump to be reelected. It assured me America is now more racist, egotistical and ignorant than ever.
— Roxana Gonzalez, 30, New York
Submitted: 12:27 p.m. Nov. 5
I was expecting a clear rejection of Trump. When 2016 was determined by less than half of the voters of a historically low turnout, I hoped to see a clear message now that America is better than the lies, bigotry and misogyny Trump embodies. As the votes are tallied, it’s leaning toward justice, but, even with this win, millions of Americans voted for a terrible man.
— Jen Dolen, 39, St. Paul, Minn.
Submitted: 6:20 a.m. Nov. 5
With Trump in the more or less same approval rate during these four years, it was clear that he has a loyal base that will support him no matter what, plus the same four years of relentless hammering of all institutions and "free media " to share his points of view to the whole country to see. This situation is only natural.
— Behtzua Elizondo, 38, Rochester, Mich.
Submitted: 7:11 a.m. Nov. 5
I thought it would be more of a landslide. Last night I was dejected and felt like throwing in the towel. My three grown kids all around the country have called and texted to check on me throughout the day today. I feel heartened and encouraged today and ready to keep on keeping on.
— Nancy Dillon, 71, Hartford, Conn.
Submitted: 9:44 p.m. Nov. 4
I was expecting to not hear the final result until at least the end of the week or next week. Although I’m a little surprised that Trump is doing better than expected, I decided that the result will be what it is and to move forward. I’m weary of the divide in this nation and want to enact my values for patience, kindness and consideration even as I may deeply disagree with conservative voters. I want to believe that we all belong here and I say this as a daughter of immigrants from China.
— Elena Yee, 57, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Submitted: 5:23 a.m. Nov. 5
I expected it to look exactly like 2016 because I feared that folks were doubling down on their positions.
— Mikaela Strech, 24, Cambridge, Mass.
Submitted: 11:16 p.m. Nov. 4
I thought that there would be a resounding repudiation of Trump’s racism and fascist leanings. White supremacy still has a firm hold in this country, and it is truly disheartening.
— Rachel Freytag, 49, Reston, Va.
Submitted: 9:44 p.m. Nov. 4
Bernie Sanders predicted this and his explanation really resonated with my thinking. I also feel this is going to get really ugly quickly. I am a dual citizen and even though I have a good job here, I’m ready to flee back to Australia. I’m still amazed that this race is so close given how badly we’re being impacted by covid-19. This means that half this country still thinks Trump is a good sound leader when all I can see is corruption, lies and bigotry. This is not the country I thought it was.
— Diane Daly, 57, St. Leonard, Md.
Submitted: 7:56 p.m. Nov. 4
I was initially expecting a higher Election Day turnout which would follow the path of early voting, but as a volunteer poll observer (who traveled twice in five days to help observe at the polls in a nearby state) what I saw there told me that the results would be close. It felt too much like 2016, when I’d been in Florida, also volunteering as a voter protection volunteer. I’m feeling good about the results and have been urging friends to chill. Big city/central counts take time.
— Sallie Stiens, 46, Chicago
Submitted: 8:05 p.m. Nov. 4
While I was unreasonably skeptical of the polls due to the whole 2016 fiasco, deep down I wanted to believe the polls, and hoped for a landslide blue wave. The fact that on the first night the election seemed so close and that so many people voted for the incumbent was unexpected to say the least. How could so many people tolerate the such naked lies and clear disregard for decency?
— Samia M, 34, Stony Brook, N.Y.
Submitted: 7:52 p.m. Nov. 4
I had told myself I had no expectations, but that’s clearly not true. On this day four years ago, I was stunned and tearful. Today, I just feel a dull ache unleavened by hope or even motivation. I am deeply disappointed by my country and virtually all of our elected leaders (in both parties). I am sad at how we have declined not only in our policies, but even in our sense of principle. I don’t know where I belong. Regardless of ultimate outcome, this has been a very bad day.
— Rob Bertsche, 61, Needham, Mass.
Submitted: 9 p.m. Nov 4
I believed the polls would again underestimate the strength of Trump’s support. I thought he had a very good shot at reelection. That thought was terrifying. Now I feel like sobbing with joy and relief that our four-year nightmare appears to be ending at last. I won’t fully relax until Jan. 21, 2021, however!
— Pam Howe-Perry, 73, Beulah, Mich.
Submitted: 11:13 p.m. Nov. 4
So, I studied up for this election, read the various election models and read how states would report votes, how they would shift, and understood that poll errors do occur, so what has happened isn’t too surprising. But as someone hopeful for Biden, last night was certainly nerve-racking. Honestly, last night was the most nervous I’ve been in years, holy crap.
— Christopher Tran, 22, Minneapolis
Submitted: 12:21 a.m. Nov. 5
I expected this to be a long process. I feel we need procedures in place to speed it up. Taking too long generates anxieties and sows doubt in our electoral system.
— Edward Zumstein, 68, Dunkirk, Md.
Submitted: 7:49 a.m. Nov. 5
As an international student in Washington State University in the U.S. from India, I am very very surprised. I was really really expecting a landslide Biden win. I mean, after everything that this country has been through, that’s what one would expect. The U.S. will never be the same to me and, honestly, it’s sad that even if Biden wins, the USA will have lost. It will never be the USA it was — at least to me.
— Utkarsh Mehta, 19, Pullman, Wash.
Submitted: 11:49 a.m. Nov. 5
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.