BOSTON (CBS) — The name “President Donald Trump” sparks a wide variety of reactions from different people. To gain some perspective on what both supporters and critics think of Trump, Jon Keller spoke with Diane Hessan, the chair of C Space. Hessan has been in regular contact with 500 voters through email to discuss current events, politics, and President Trump since December 2016.
While the number 500 is not completely scientific, Hessan said, “what I do have are 500 voters from all ends of the political spectrum” evenly distributed by state, age, gender, and ethnicity. “About 40% Democrats, 40% Republicans, 10% Independents, and 10% ‘I keep shifting back and forth and sometimes I don’t vote.'”
These voters can have dramatically different viewpoints on events and topics, in particular, Trump’s honesty.
Trump supporters “see a difference between him getting excited and exaggerating and outright lying. I think the other thing is, what I hear all the time from Trump voters is, ‘yeah, I know he lies, but they all lie!'” said Hessan.
Trump critics “think the economy is doing better but they don’t think that the improvement is evenly distributed. So what they’ll say is ‘well the stock market is better but most Americans don’t have investments in the stock market.’ That ‘the economy is better but the rich are the ones who are really benefitting.'”
On the contrary, Trump voters have said their paychecks have benefited from Trump. One person told Hessan, “My daughter calculated it for me, we’re getting six more tanks of gas per month. So they’re looking at that and very, very aware of it. And I think people who are other the other end of the spectrum just aren’t thinking about it that way.”
But Hessan added, “I am absolutely convinced that there is a huge amount of common ground in the country. I think there is common ground on health care, on immigration, on gun control, I could go on and on. If we got a group of reasonable people sitting in a room for a day, we could all outline something that we could all live with. On the other hand, we perceive that the divide is huge because our media, especially cable news is very divided, and Congress is very divided.”
“I’m not really sure I would claim victory on understanding Trump but I am trying to dissociate Trump from the people that voted for him, who are very diverse and have really, really interesting points of view and different reasons that they supported him to begin with,” said Hessan.
Even so, looking forward to 2020, Hessan claims there appears to be a candidate that many Democrats and even some moderate Republicans can get behind: Joe Biden. “The emotion was most striking to me because I got probably about 400 responses, about 47 people I think used the word ‘love.’ They talked about how much they respect the man, they talked about words like ‘compassionate,’ but it was very emotional in terms of how they feel about him.”
The responses from conservatives were not overly critical either. One wrote, “I could live with him.”
“I gave them a list of 10 candidates. One person who is a hardened Trump supporter said to me, ‘you know if Biden were the president, that would be fine as long as it wasn’t any of the others that you sent to me,” explained Hessan.
One concern about Biden, though? His age. While it was a conflict for some, others wanted to ignore it, and many millennial respondents admitted they had not even considered it.