North Carolina voters deliver harsh assessments on Trump's 'chaotic' first year

Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

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By Andrew Rafferty

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The twelve months since President Donald Trump’s election have been “chaotic,” “corrupt,” “dangerous” and “embarrassing,” a group of Republican and Democratic voters here said Wednesday night.

A 12-person focus group conducted by veteran pollster Peter Hart on behalf of Emory University delivered blistering reviews of Trump’s performance so far. Those voters, seven who supported Clinton and five who voted for Trump, expressed deep frustrations with the president’s conduct in office and what they perceive as a lack of accomplishments since Inauguration Day.

“Nightmare,” “divisive,” “mayhem,” “antagonistic,” “failure,” “reality television,” “rude,” “instigating” and “vacant” were among the words used to describe Trump over the past year.

Some of the most stinging reviews came from those who cast ballots for the president in the key battleground state he won by four points.

“While I thought his ideas appealed to me, since he’s been in there, he’s embarrassed me by his behavior,” said Annie Anthony, a 56-year-old Trump voter who described herself as a “weak Republican.”

“When he’s away, he’s great being a president, you know he’s a showman. But at home — I can’t imagine how they let him build a country club let alone be in one,” she added.

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“He comes out with these grandiose ideas and there is no follow through. It’s a lot of talk,” said Melissa Hight, a 62-year-old Republican who also voted for Trump. “I just had such hopes that maybe some things would be prepared, and the whole country would be better off with him as president. But he hasn’t acted presidential at all.”

The president’s social media habits were frequently cited by the group as a top concern. Just one member of the panel said she thought Trump’s use of Twitter was a positive for his presidency.

“President Trump has embarrassed even his own supporters, and his problems start and end with himself. All of his problems are self-inflicted,” Hart told NBC News.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

Health care was ranked as the most important issue to the group, followed closely by the economy. Out of a list of ten important issues facing the country, no one ranked Russia’s interference in the 2016 election among the top two.

The group’s disappointment was not confined to just Trump. Disgust with Washington and the media also was a prominent theme.

“The media does not give you a true opinion of what’s going on. They give their side. You have to find what’s going on, on your own,” said Cynthia Layton, a Trump supporter who vigorously defended the president’s social media habits.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was described as “sleazy,” “spineless,” and as a leader who “hates Steve Bannon,” the former White House adviser who has vowed to defeat the Kentucky Republican.

Opinions have also not cooled on Hillary Clinton, who the panel said was “annoying, “outmatched” and “needs to quit.”

But it wasn’t all bad news for Trump. A bipartisan group of respondents said he has performed well when it comes to the economy, citing the rising stock market and efforts to renegotiate some of the nation’s trade deals.

“His attempts to want to bring the economy, jobs, infrastructure, construction, I think those are good moves as a businessman. I mean, that’s what he knows,” said Katrina Harrell, a 38-year-old Clinton voter who leans Democrat.

And despite the tough words delivered throughout the evening, none of the five Trump voters said they had ruled out supporting his potential re-election bid or candidates he backs in the 2018 midterms.

“I’m still optimistic. He still has time to prove something. It’s still better than having a career politician in there,” said Michael Leimone, a Trump voter and moderate Republican.