What do Trump’s supporters who don’t agree with everything he says think about his first month in office? We spoke with five people who had somewhat positive views of Trump in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll just before his inauguration and who agreed to a follow-up interview with a reporter.
By definition, these are not Trump’s strongest supporters. Three of the five voted for Trump; one skipped voting; and another wrote her husband’s name in as a write-in candidate. But all said they at least somewhat approve of the president, and two of them said they now strongly approve of his presidency.
Here are excerpts from our conversations with them.
Give Trump more time
Several Trump backers said Trump had not been president long enough for them to give him a full review.
“He’s doing what he said he would, for the most part, in his campaign,” said Genia Vining, a Trump voter from Jemison, Ala. “He hasn’t got to do very much yet.”
The 53-year-old, who cares for her mother-in-law full time, said that impassioned criticism of Trump has been premature.
“He’s not really had a big opportunity to do the things that he needs to do,” she said. “He may need just a little bit longer to get things straightened out. He’s going to make mistakes, he’s human!”
Nancy Sager of Morgan Hill, Calif., an octogenarian and retired teacher who wrote in her husband’s name on her ballot, shared Vining’s sentiments: “We have to take the time — it hasn’t been 100 days. Let’s see the advisers he has, the Cabinet. I believe they are going to give him good advice.”
Trump supporters shared irritation with protesters and others who they said are treating the president unfairly.
“Give the guy a chance,” argued David Oskins, the owner of a window installation business in Denton, Tex., who did not vote. “I’m hearing people say things like impeach! This guy hasn’t been here for long enough to even do anything."
Russell Pandina, who owns a business that sells and maintains ATMs, shared a similar sentiment. “Give him a chance to make friends out of enemies,” the Columbia Falls, Mont., resident and Trump voter said. He noted that Trump gave up a charmed life to run for president out of love for his country. “The guy could do anything,” Pandina said. “Why would he choose to do something so difficult?”
Immigration policies are a top issue
Support for Trump’s immigration policies was common among almost all of the people with whom we spoke — whether it was building the wall on the Mexican border or banning travel by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A few mentioned that they believed his policies would make the country safer, while others cited expected economic benefits from tamping down immigration.
“I am a person who likes immigrants. My grandfather was an immigrant. He came to this country with a sponsorship and a job and he worked. He came to this country legally,” Sager said. “I don’t mind immigrants if they come to this country legally. We need immigrants in this country. They add to our country economically and socially. They are not part of our country until they come legally and are covered by our Constitution.”
Oskins said: “I hope that he makes the country I live in a little more safer for my kids and their futures. We have no idea who’s coming into our country. They’re just crossing the border.”
Pandina agreed. “I like the immigration policy,” he said. “I think … putting some restrictions on there is good. Even my family was immigrants, and when they came into the country they had to serve in the military. The ban was a good place to start to get some eyes on and some hands on some people coming in.”
At least one Trump supporter among the five interviewees was not a fan of the plan to build a border wall.
“The wall is the biggest waste of money,” said Kevin Naegele, a real estate appraiser and Trump voter from Hobbs, N.M. “I wish there was another way he could address immigration without putting fear into people. There are a lot of people out here who are afraid they’re going to be deported. … The Mexican immigrants are coming over here for a better way of life; they’re not looking to bomb train stations!”
High expectations for Trump improving the economy
The people we spoke to have high expectations for the American economy with Trump in the White House, saying his business experience will help bring back jobs and boost U.S. businesses more broadly. Some said the economy is already on the upswing since the election.
“The business climate seems to be a little more upbeat from an economy standpoint,” said Naegele, the real estate appraiser from New Mexico. “I work in an area that’s predominately oil and gas, there’s a lot more confidence in a Republican president in that industry. The stock market is improving. That’s where my approval is coming from.”
Pandina, the Montana small-business man, said: “I’d like to see a boost in the economy and more jobs in America. I’m a small-business owner. If Americans have more money to spend, it’ll have a real plus. My biggest hope here is him being able to follow through with efforts to build the economy. And I’m very confident he can. You don’t get that success without failures … and I think that experience will help growth of the country internally.”
“He’s a businessman,” said Oskins, the Texas businessman said of Trump. “He’s been a guy who’s tried and failed, and he’s learned from that. You have to have experience in everything. From a business experience, he probably knows what’s best for the economy.”
Approval of an adversarial relationship with the media
The Trump supporters were consistently critical of the media’s coverage of his first month in office, and several voiced exasperation in what they saw as bickering between the president and the press.
“Anything he does, they scrutinize him,” complained Vining, the Alabama caretaker. “It’s unfair to him that everything he’s done is put under a microscope. There’s a lot of news channels I don’t even watch because they’re so anti-Trump.” Like some others interviewed, she said she prefers to watch Fox News.
Oskins said he believes that the media goes out of its way to exaggerate to get more readers. Pandina agreed, saying: “I think the media has exaggerated or attempted to influence by somebody’s beliefs — whether it’s an editor or whatever. A little more swayed toward anti-Trump.”
“Don’t report all this from your point of view — just report what people are saying,” Sager pleaded. She watched Trump’s news conference last week live on CNN and disagreed with the coverage in the next day’s Wall Street Journal, which she said did not quote him accurately. “Mr. Trump doesn’t even speak in that yelling, exasperated theatrical tone when he was in that press conference the other day,” she said. “He’s kind of a calm-natured person.”
Beyond the negative tone of some media coverage, Vining said the media are too focused on Trump's every move. “You cannot turn the news on without ‘Trump did this, Trump did that!’” she said. “Oh my word, I do not care that he had lobster for dinner last night! It doesn’t matter if you like him or not, you get tired of hearing [about him]. Just give me the important stuff.”
Vining does think Trump could cut back his anger at the press. “I look at him sometimes and think, ‘Why can’t you be quiet? Do your job and be quiet,’” she said. “He needs to tone it down some, and he needs to be a little more polished.”
Naegele agreed. “I get his tweets. He’s a little crazy,” he said. “I think it’s kind of overblown from both sides. I think the media overblows, and he’s definitely a drama queen. I think that’s probably the New Yorker in him. … Outside that, I believe he’s a breath of fresh air with his aggressiveness.”
Naegele does not paint all media as out to get Trump. “I would not lump everyone in the media together,” said the 55-year-old Republican. “There are a lot of newspapers that are not fair and balanced. There are some that lean to the left and right. [Trump] blows that up because someone from the New York Times says something he doesn’t like, and he calls it ‘the media.’”
Hope for the future
Several Trump supporters said they were hopeful for a better future — not just for them but also for their children and grandchildren — and believe Trump can deliver on his core campaign promise to “Make America great again.”
“The first things that come to my mind is to make this a better place for my grandchildren,” Vining said. “That they’re safe at home and can get jobs and flourish and be responsible adults. … Goes back to maybe getting the businesses to come back to the United States to have those job opportunities.”
“What I would like him to do for me is to be able to give assurance that my grandchildren will have the country in which I grew up,” Sager said. “I grew up in World War II. I was a Depression child. We were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor.”
“I have children who are 20 and 25. I don’t want them to have the fears of retirement, like things stand right now,” Pandina said. “As a small-business owner, I want to make enough money for retirement. … I want my kids to work somewhere where they can be stable. The only jobs I have confidence in are government jobs, whether it’s being a teacher or policeman — they have long-term stability.”
Scott Clement contributed to this report.