An unprecedented level of disgust


The morning after the presidential election in eclectic Yellow Springs, Ohio, a dour clientele filed into the Coffee Emporium and Underdog Wines storefront on the main street through town.

Many had learned the news when they awakened: Donald Trump would be the next president.

Yellow Springs is a liberal island in the otherwise heavily Republican rural Ohio countryside, and the news was not welcomed.

“It just seems so obvious that it was wrong, but it happened anyways,” said Kathy Moulton, 65, as she stopped in for coffee. She had voted for Hillary Clinton and was in tears.

Behind her in line, Andrew Morris reached for a cup at the coffee bar, then hesitated and shook his head.

“I just woke up and found out that Trump is president,” said the 26-year-old from Yellow Springs. “I think I’m going to go back and get a bottle of liquor. Like, legitimately, I think I’m going to go back there and grab myself a bottle of liquor,” said Morris.

He wasn’t alone as several others quietly filed past and checked out with bottles of wine and liquor, some wiping away tears. It wasn’t yet 10 a.m.

This little town of 3,500 where 89 percent of the votes were for Hillary Clinton, the home of the historic liberal Antioch University and Antioch College, illustrates the pendulum swing in Ohio politics, as measured in levels of disgust.

Polling done through 2016 for the Your Vote Ohio project, a collaborative effort of Ohio news organizations, showed that as the summer began, 75 percent of Trump supporters were disgusted with the state of politics in the country — a 10-point lead over the disgust-level of Clinton supporters at 65 percent.

After the election, the numbers not only flipped, the disgust gap between the two sides widened by four points. Seventy-four percent of Clinton supporters were disgusted, and the level of disgust among Trump supporters had plummeted from 75 to 60 percent.

Presidential elections are like that. In 2008, the country was in the worst recession in 80 years and the polling showed a record number of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track — just shy of 90 percent, according to a New York Times poll. That number plummeted about 25 points in the months following Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The number one reason given for choosing Obama, according to multiple national polls, was a desire for change.

Likewise, in the Ohio post-election survey, 54 percent of Trump supporters gave “change in the White House” as their number one reason for their selection. For Clinton supporters, change was important to only 4 percent. Their number one reason cited was experience in public office, 39 percent.

The latest poll was conducted beginning the day after the election through Dec. 10. Contacted were 800 of the nearly 2,000 who were part of a statewide pool created in June for repeat interviews. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

What’s unusual about this election, though, is the continuing high level of disgust, and changes within the numbers from the first poll in June to the post-election survey.

The biggest shift toward satisfaction occurred among Trump supporters, among them groups defined as women, white, with income below $50,000, or a high school diploma or less.

The growth in disgust was particularly marked among female supporters of Clinton, up 23 percentage points. Trump’s suggestion that an aggressive Fox News debate moderator, Megyn Kelly, was possibly in her period, and the release of an audio of Trump in a discussion about groping women, were often named as reasons.

Sixty-one percent of Clinton supporters overall said they were very uncomfortable with how women were discussed during the election.

Dishonesty in politics

Two out of three Ohioans remain disgusted with the state of national politics.

“My number one main thing would be the dishonesty over the jobless rate,” said Linda McQuistion, 60, an engineer with a doctorate, living in Hartville near Akron. “That people, the government, and mainstream media portrayed it as, ‘unemployment numbers were down,’ but the job participation rate was obviously not. And people who are living through that understand it. I myself, my job was with the state of Ohio and it was abolished. And after a while I basically was off unemployment and so I’m not on the rolls anymore. So I understand that, and a lot of people around me, whether they’re blue collar or white collar, it was shocking to see how many people that I knew that were out of work.”

Larry DeCamp, 79 a retired grocery store manager in Canton, is disgusted with the political cycles that fail to live up to expectations.

“I think it’s been the same for years,” DeCamp said. “You hear all these promises, and once elected officials get in, the [promises] are gone. One of the reasons they have problems is because people vote so much in party lines. If it’s a Republican idea, Democrats vote against it. It’s not necessarily voting for what’s best for the country.”

Donna Brill, who participated in the poll, voted for Trump. The 57-year-old from Guernsey County said she had grown disgusted with the direction of the country and believes Trump will bring change to immigration, drugs, jobs and national debt that the country so desperately needs.

“I think he can do the country some justice,” said Brill.

She said Clinton had her chance in politics when her husband, Bill, was president.

“She’s been in the government system for how many years, for a long time…and I don’t see nothing fantastic that she’s ever really done. She could have helped us get all out of debt years ago,” said Brill.

After the election, Brill declined to get into another political discussion.

“The election is over, people need to get over it, everybody is picking at each other about the election results and I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

Michael Darbyshire, a poll participant from Ross County, supported Clinton and said in an October interview that if Trump won the election he would lose all hope for the ability of the American people to ascertain the facts and choose the right candidate.

Following the election, Darbyshire said he was still disgusted but ready to move on. “I think the election is over and we do need to get over it. People have spoken and sometimes people deserve what they get,” said Darbyshire.

The disgust question in the Your Vote Ohio poll asked respondents to choose a number from 1 to 10 to best reflect their level of disgust, with 1 being highest and and 10 complete satisfaction. One in four persons selected the highest level of disgust: One.

When asked again after the November election, the percent choosing the highest level rose to 28 percent.

Media problem

Darbyshire blames the media.

“Rather than just having your typical evening news that just tried to report the facts in an unbiased way, we have these news outlets like Fox News on the right side and then you have MSNBC on the left side and they are obviously, in their decisions and in their reporting, biased, and this has a negative impact on our whole process, on the weight of the issues in the campaign,” said Darbyshire.

The post election poll showed 48 percent of Ohio voters felt that the news media were very responsible for the poor state of American politics.

“The news media is frequently blamed by all sides in political campaigns,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute. He said that while there’s plenty of room to be critical, those voters who value traditional news sources are declining.

“The number of people who value objectivity in news coverage appears to be declining as politics has become more polarized between conservatives and liberals,” said Green.

Darbyshire is unique, tapping into multiple sources, among them CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Politico, the Chillicothe Gazette and the Columbus Dispatch (online).

“Here’s what I think about newspapers: as long as they allow both sides to be reported on, they have these writers who they allow on their opinion page, if they allow both sides on their pages, that’s okay. Read both sides and come to your own determination. Delve into it and get the facts,” said Darbyshire.

On the news side, though, he was troubled by Trump’s ability to command headlines with comments such as prosecuting and jailing Clinton, building a wall and deporting 10 million immigrants.

“Because of his demeanor and the crazy statements he would make, that’s what people would hear, and some of these people who would respond to these things positively just took off,” said Darbyshire. “I don’t blame them for being fed up, but do something positive about that…I only hope that congress can reel him in, because with his cabinet picks, our future looks very dim.”

JoJo Clark, 64, of Lima is very invested in politics, watching a lot of CNN and MSNBC during the election. For her, the feeling of disgust with this year’s presidential campaign and subsequent election can be largely attributed to Trump.

“I know that Ohio is a Republican state, especially Lima, but we thought Hillary was in the bag,” she said. “The disgust right now is with the cabinet he’s choosing, like Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. The disgust is just coming through the rhetoric that has followed him and the scrutiny that has come to him with the lies.”

Kurt Wilkins, 53, of Lima did not go into detail on his thoughts on the campaign, simply emphasizing that he voted for Trump. He did express disappointment with reactions to the election, however, maintaining that Trump needs to be given a chance to succeed before people assume he will fail.

“I can’t understand why people are putting Trump down,” he said. “He’s not even in office yet. Let him get in, first.”

Wilkins is optimistic about the prospects of a Trump presidency, saying he hopes to see “marked improvement” under his leadership.

“I voted for Trump because I like guns,” he said.

As for where he gets his news, Wilkins pointed to one source.

“I watch Fox because it’s the only one that’s accurate,” he said.

Back at the Yellow Springs coffee shop, Christina Roberts, 62, and her husband Doug, 60, were among many who awoke Wednesday, Nov. 9, to the Trump win.

“It’s a devastating day for the environment,” said Christina Roberts.

“I think it’s a particularly sad day for women and the environment,” her husband said.

“Maybe this will be good for Yellow Springs,” Christina Roberts said. “Maybe Yellow Springs will become a center for sanity. As things fall into chaos around the region maybe people will turn to Yellow Springs for guidance because we have a little intelligencia here and is looking forward and not back.”

Ashley Bunton is a reporter at the Washington Court House Record Herald, part of Civitas Media. She can be emailed at [email protected]

By Ashley Bunton

[email protected]

About the Your Vote Ohio project

News organizations participating in the Your Vote Ohio project will meet in early January to discuss how to best address national issues in an Ohiocentric way as they are taken up by the new administration.

Share with your local news outlet which issues you think should be localized.

The post-election survey conducted for the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron contacted 800 voters drawn from the nearly 2,000 first interviewed in June 2016, and re-interviewed in August and September. The post-election interviews were conducted between Nov. 9 and Dec. 10. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Conducting the survey was the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research in Akron.

The polling was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for the Your Vote Ohio project, a collaborative of Ohio news outlets that focused on issues important to Ohioans.

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