WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 21, 2016 – For most voters, the 2016 presidential campaign was one to forget. In a new national survey by Pew Research Center, evaluations of the way that the winning candidate, the parties, the press and the pollsters conducted themselves during the campaign are all far more negative than after any election dating back to 1988.
The new survey, conducted November 10-14 among 1,254 voters who were originally interviewed before the election, finds that half are happy that Trump won the election, while nearly as many (48%) are unhappy. That is little different from initial reactions to the election result four years ago, when 52% were happy that Barack Obama won.
But voters’ “grades” for the way Trump conducted himself during the campaign are the lowest for any victorious candidate in 28 years. Just 30% of voters give Trump an A or B, 19% grade him at C, 15% D, while about a third (35%) give Trump a failing grade. Four years ago, most voters (57%) gave Obama an A or B, and after his 2008 election, 75% gave him an A or B.
For the first time in Pew Research Center post-election surveys, voters give the losing candidate higher grades than the winner. About four-in-ten (43%) give Clinton an A or B, which is comparable to the share giving Mitt Romney top letter grades in 2012 (44%) and 13 percentage points higher than Trump’s (30%).
After a bitter and contentious campaign, voters are deeply polarized in their reactions to Trump’s victory and expectations for his presidency. Among all voters, 56% expect Trump to have a successful first term, which is lower than the share saying that about Obama’s first term eight years ago (67%), but on par with expectations for Obama’s second term in November 2012 (also 56%).
Virtually all of Trump’s supporters (97%) say they expect Trump’s first term to be successful; a smaller but still overwhelming majority of Clinton supporters (76%) say Trump will be unsuccessful.
Trump voters have high degree of confidence in – and high expectations for – the president-elect. Fully 88% say they are confident in the kind of president Trump will be, while 90% or more express at least a fair amount of confidence in his ability to deal with key issues such as the economy, illegal immigration and health care.
By contrast, Clinton voters express little or no confidence in Trump to deal with major issues. And while a majority of Clinton voters (58%) say they are “willing to give Trump a chance and see how he governs as president,” nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they can’t see themselves giving Trump a chance “because of the kind of person he has shown himself to be.”
Equally important, most Democrats would like to see their party’s leaders stand up to Trump rather than work with him. In fact, Democratic support for cooperation with the president-elect today is substantially less than GOP support for working with Obama eight years ago.
Nearly two-thirds of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters (65%) say “Democratic leaders should stand up to Donald Trump on issues that are important to Democratic supporters, even if means less gets done in Washington.” Just 32% want the party’s leaders to work with Trump if it means disappointing Democrats.
In November 2008 – a time when voters generally felt much better about the election and its outcome – Republicans and Republican leaners were more favorably disposed to their party’s leaders working with Obama. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) said GOP leaders should work with Obama, while 36% wanted them to “stand up” to the new president.
And Democratic voters are now far more supportive of the party moving in a more liberal direction than they were after either the 2012 or 2008 elections. About half of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters (49%) say Democratic leaders in Washington should move in a more liberal direction, while nearly as many (47%) favor a more moderate approach. Following Obama’s victories, majorities favored the party’s leaders moving in a more moderate direction (57% in both 2012 and 2008).
Among the survey’s other key findings:
Trump’s victory, in a word. When voters are asked to summarize their feelings about Trump’s victory in a word, the unexpected nature of the result is reflected. Among Trump supporters, “happy” is mentioned most often, while many point to their surprise or shock at the election. For Clinton voters, “shocked” is the most frequent response, followed by “disappointed” and “disgusted.”
Voters grade other campaign actors as harshly or more harshly than Trump. They give abysmal grades to the press and pollsters, whose pre-election surveys were widely criticized. Just 22% give the press a grade of A or B, while 38% give it a failing grade. Similarly, fewer voters award pollsters grades of A or B (21%) than a grade of F (30%).
Most expect woman president, eventually. Following Clinton’s defeat, a sizable majority of voters (79%) still expect there will be a female president “in their lifetime.” There are no significant differences in these opinions among men and women, or Clinton supporters and Trump backers.
Voters pessimistic on how Trump will impact race relations. Nearly half of voters (46%) say Trump’s election will lead to worse race relations, while only about half as many (25%) expect race relations to improve; 26% say his election won’t make a difference. Among Clinton voters, 84% expect race relations to worsen under Trump. Among Trump supporters, half expect improvement, while 38% say his election won’t make a difference.
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on our Fact Tank blog.