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Election 2016
Trump Victory Surprises Americans; Four in 10 Afraid
Election 2016

Trump Victory Surprises Americans; Four in 10 Afraid

by Jim Norman
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Trump's win surprises both Republicans and Democrats
  • 42% describe one of their reactions as "afraid"
  • Reactions are far different from those eight years ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans on both sides of the 2016 presidential race are reacting strongly to Donald Trump's victory Tuesday: 80% of Trump voters say they are "excited," while 76% of Hillary Clinton voters say they are "afraid." A large majority (75%) share one reaction: surprise.

Americans' Reactions to Trump Victory Vary Widely
Percent who said each of the following describes their reaction to Donald Trump being elected president
National adults Trump voters Clinton voters
% % %
Surprised 75 62 88
Afraid 42 5 76
Relieved 40 91 9
Excited 35 80 5
Devastated 34 3 66
Proud 32 75 2
Angry 29 3 58

Trump's tumultuous campaign often put him at odds with leaders of his own Republican Party and resulted in the highest unfavorable ratings for any presidential candidate in Gallup polling history. A majority of Americans also viewed Democratic nominee Clinton unfavorably, making this the first time since Gallup began measuring favorability that both major-party candidates had negative ratings.

Nevertheless, when asked whether each of six adjectives describes how they are reacting to the election results, Americans do not overwhelmingly identify with the most negative terms. Almost as many say they are "relieved" (40%) as say they are "afraid" (42%). About the same percentages describe their reaction as "excited" (35%) and "devastated" (34%).

Huge differences exist between Trump voters and Clinton voters, with somewhat smaller differences between Republicans and Democrats as well as between younger and older Americans.

  • Sixty-six percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are "afraid," compared with 11% of Republicans and leaners.
  • Sixty-three percent of Republicans and leaners are "excited," compared with 13% of Democrats and leaners.
  • More than half of Americans aged 40 and younger (54%) say they are "afraid," compared with only a fourth of those 60 and older (25%).
  • The situation reverses for those who say they are "relieved": More than half of those aged 60 or older (57%) say they are "relieved," while less than a fourth of those 40 or younger (22%) feel the same way.

Reactions Differ Greatly From Historic Obama Win in 2008

Americans reacted far differently in 2008 when Barack Obama won election as the first black president.

  • Thirty-two percent of Americans say they are "proud" after Trump's election. The night after Obama's historic election, 67% described themselves as "proud."
  • Thirty-five percent are "excited" about Trump's election. In 2008, 59% said they felt this way.
  • Forty-two percent are "afraid" now, compared with 27% in 2008.

Obama's re-election four years ago did not evoke the same level of excitement as his historic win in 2008 did. Significantly fewer said they were "proud" or "excited," and more said they were "afraid."

Americans' Reactions to 2008, 2012 and 2016 Elections
Percent who say each of the words describes their reaction to the elections in 2008, 2012 and 2016
2008 2012 2016
% % %
Proud 67 48 32
Excited 59 40 35
Afraid 27 36 42

Bottom Line

Eight years ago, the vast majority of Americans felt "proud" that their country had elected a black president, seeing it as a monumental milestone. More than two-thirds had a favorable view of Obama, who won the race by more than 9 million votes.

Two presidential elections later, reactions are far different to Trump, who has the lowest favorable rating of any major presidential candidate in more than 50 years and who trails Clinton in the popular vote.

However, a comparison of reactions this year with those in 2012 shows the percentages of Americans "excited" about and "afraid" of each outcome do not greatly differ. Further, 66% of Republicans in 2012 said they were "afraid" when reacting to Obama's re-election, the same as the percentage of Democrats who now say they are "afraid." (In 2008, 53% of Republicans said the election outcome made them "afraid.")

Obama's re-election in 2012 and his subsequent inauguration occurred without widespread unrest or challenges to his legitimacy. The question moving forward after numerous anti-Trump protests Wednesday night and the threat of more to come on Inauguration Day is whether the anger and fear of those who oppose Trump will produce a different result.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 9, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 511 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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