As the Trump administration approaches its first anniversary, CNN sat down with a group of five traditionally Democrat voters who switched parties to support GOP nominee Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Each of the five, representing various stages of life and socioeconomic groups, shared two characteristics. Each lived in Youngstown, Ohio, a town that has long struggled with a shrinking economy and population, and they all believed Trump could help despite their own family histories of supporting Democrats.
Voting records indicate roughly 7,000 registered Democrats in the Youngstown area switched party affiliation ahead of the 2016 election. Some of those voters who spoke to CNN explained the reasoning behind their decision to back Trump.
“He said he was going to make America first and he was going to bring jobs back,” said pastor Derrick Anderson.
Justis Harrison, a student, said she supported Trump’s campaign rhetoric promising to “give the power back to the American people.”
When asked to assess the president’s job performance as he nears completion of his first year in office, there was no mention of buyer’s remorse. Instead, the panelists shot back reactions that included “fantastic” and “phenomenal.”
“Better than I ever would have dreamt!” said Anna Para, a retired mother of four.
Anderson praised Trump for “staying on task,” adding his assessment that Trump is “doing wonderful” thus far in his first term.
Some of the participants cited economic improvements as part of their positive review.
“Industries are booming everywhere I’ve seen,” Green said.
Pressed on his assertion in light of Youngstown’s continued struggles, he conceded the policies he supports are taking some time to translate into positive local results.
“In this area, no, but I feel like there are small businesses that are starting to pick up,” he said.
A number of the panelists also expressed support for Trump’s tough immigration policy, confirming the issue of illegal immigration remains a top priority even in Ohio.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re stealing jobs of rightful citizens,” iron worker Rick Green said.
Harrison added that it is “just very disrespectful” on the part of those who violate America’s immigration laws.
All five said they still want to see construction begin on a wall along the southern U.S. border.
Anderson and Harrison, both black, continue to support Trump despite a chorus of critics accusing him of being a racist.
According to Harrison, Trump “was just the nicest person” when she met him at a campaign rally.
For Anderson, the proof is in the way presidential policies impact his community.
“If you expand your business in the inner city, so then my community will benefit from this tax cut,” he said.
As for common complaints about Trump, the sample of voters taking part in the CNN discussion largely dismissed any concerns.
Geno DiFabio, a machine shop worker, said he no longer cringes when reading Trump’s tweets and has begun to appreciate the direct, often controversial, language the president uses on social media.
“If all he had to rely on was what people say about him, oh my God, I might not like the guy,” he said. “But I love the guy! I love the job he’s doing.”
DiFabio’s assessment led to a general agreement among the panelists that the news media, by and large, treats Trump unfairly.
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