Republicans sour on the election outcome, poll shows, while Trump claims illegal voting

President Trump had claimed victory during a postelection news conference. Most of his supporters view the midterm results differently, a new poll has found.
President Trump had claimed victory during a postelection news conference. Most of his supporters view the midterm results differently, a new poll has found.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

The day after the Nov. 6 election, President Trump claimed the results represented a “tremendous success,” but most of his supporters aren’t buying that, a new postelection survey shows, and the president also has significantly soured on the outcome.

While votes are still being counted — or recounted — in several states or districts, Democrats retook the majority in the House of Representatives, recaptured at least seven governorships and broadened their presence in numerous state legislatures. Republicans kept control of the Senate and are likely to add to their majority.

Democrats and Trump opponents are significantly happier about that outcome than are Republicans and Trump voters, according to a new USC-Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.


Asked to rank their reaction to the congressional election results on a 0-100 scale, voters who said they cast ballots for the Democrats were, on average, 26 points more positive than were Republican voters.

The election drew the largest turnout of any midterm in more than a century — almost 50% of those eligible cast ballots — and the poll provides insights into why the other half didn’t participate: A feeling that they didn’t know enough about the candidates or issues far outweighed other concerns.

Trump continues to tout his own role in helping Republicans win some Senate seats, but as Democrats have emerged on top in a series of contests that remained unresolved on election day, he has become increasingly sullen about the results, lashing out at his staff and angrily tweeting about Democrats.

In an interview published Thursday by the conservative Daily Caller, Trump complained bitterly about Democratic gains and repeated his often-debunked claims that widespread illegal voting had hurt his side.

“This is a problem in California that’s so bad of illegals voting,” Trump said, according to a transcript the Daily Caller published. “This is a California problem, and if you notice, almost every race — I was watching today — out of like 11 races that are in question they’re gonna win all of them.”

He appeared to be referring to six heavily contested congressional elections in the state, some of which remain too close to call. No evidence of fraud has marred those races.


“The Republicans don’t win, and that’s because of potentially illegal votes, which is what I’ve been saying for a long time,” he added. “I have no doubt about it.”

Last year, after Trump raised similar claims of illegal voting, the White House established a commission to look into the issue. The panel disbanded after it failed to document any widespread illegal voting in California or elsewhere, backing up previous inquiries that have found illegal voting to be a rare and isolated problem.

The day after the election, Trump asserted that Republicans could pick up a net of five seats in the Senate, crediting himself with the victories. So far, the party has picked up a Senate seat with a potential to gain another: Florida remains undecided pending a hand recount of ballots. The GOP is heavily favored to win a runoff to keep its seat in Mississippi.

In the House, Democrats have gained at least 36 seats and seem likely to end up netting around 39.

The Democrats picked up their 36th seat Thursday when Democrat Katie Porter was declared the winner in an Orange County district over Republican Rep. Mimi Walters.

Earlier Thursday, the Democrats defeated another GOP incumbent when officials in Maine conducted a so-called instant runoff to determine the winner in a contest in which neither Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin nor Democrat Jared Golden had gotten 50% of the vote.

Poliquin has gone to court to try to block Maine’s use of a ranked-choice voting system, in which voters faced with multiple candidates can cast ballots for their first and subsequent choices in order of preference. Under state law, those second-choice votes get redistributed between the top candidates if no one gets 50% of the first-choice votes.

Golden’s victory, if it holds, would mean Republicans no longer have a single congressional seat in the six states of New England, which was once a Republican stronghold — just as the Deep South, now mostly in Republican hands, was a Democratic bastion.

At least six more races remain unresolved, with Democrats likely to pick up at least one more in California by the time final votes are counted.

Ballots counted since election day have moved most of the unresolved races toward the Democrats. At least one, in Utah, has moved the other way in recent days.

The Republican who is narrowing the gap in the Utah race, Rep. Mia Love, is one who Trump singled out by name at his postelection news conference, saying that she lost because she had failed to support him.

“Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost,” Trump said, prematurely. “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”

The Democratic victories in the House mark the biggest pickup for their party since the post-Watergate election in 1974. Not surprisingly, Republicans aren’t happy with the results.

On the 0-100 scale, Republican voters on average listed their feeling about the outcome at a tepid 47. Democrats averaged 73, the USC/L.A.Times poll found.

Among Democrats, white women with college degrees — one of the party’s strongest groups — stood out as particularly pleased, averaging 78. Among Republicans, white men without college degrees, who have been Trump’s strongest supporters, averaged 43.

The Democratic satisfaction with the outcome contrasts with their mood on election day. About 4 in 10 Democratic voters said that on election day, they had been “afraid of what might happen to the country.” Only a quarter of Republican voters said they had been similarly anxious.

“Voters were very involved in this election, both in following the results closely on or after election day, and in their level of concern over the direction the country could take if the election did not go the way they hoped,” noted Jill Darling, the director of the survey

Reflecting the strongly partisan nature of the election, almost 6 in 10 voters said they had made up their minds more than a month ago. Only 15% said they decided the day of the election. The late deciders split fairly evenly between the two parties.

As pre-election polls indicated, Democratic voters listed healthcare as their most important issue. Republican voters divided their focus among a few issues: the economy, taxes and illegal immigration.

In each party, only about 1 in 10 voters listed partisan control of the House as their most important issue.

One in 4 voters said that their view of Trump outweighed their views of the candidates actually running. That group split heavily for Democrats.

Trump “clearly played a big role” in the outcome, said Bob Shrum, the co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future, which co-sponsored the survey.

Reflecting the large turnout, about 2 in 10 of those who voted said they “rarely vote in elections like this one.” Those occasional voters divided about evenly between the two parties.

Nonvoters were far more likely than voters to say that whether they vote or not doesn’t matter: Almost 6 in 10 nonvoters took that view, but fewer than 2 in 10 voters did. About 6 in 10 nonvoters also said that elections have “no real effect on my everyday life,” while 6 in 10 voters disagreed.

The poll gave those who did not vote a list of eight potential reasons why and asked them to list however many applied.

By far the most frequently chosen response, picked by just over half of the nonvoters: not knowing enough about the candidates to make an informed choice.

About 3 in 10 nonvoters said they were too busy to vote. That was especially true of nonvoters younger than 45. Roughly 1 in 4 blamed the candidates, saying they would have voted if there were any good ones to vote for.

Despite widespread accusations by Democrats that Republicans had tried to prevent people from voting, relatively few nonvoters, about 1 in 10, said they failed to vote because of “suppression tactics.”

That number did not vary significantly by race or age and was considerably fewer than the roughly 1 in 5 who said they had simply “lost track of when the election was” or when the deadline arrived for registering.

About 1 in 10 also said they lacked the right form of identification to vote.

Roughly 1 in 4 of those who said they were not registered said they weren’t entirely sure how to register or vote. Latinos and people younger than 35 were somewhat more likely than others to say that.

This preliminary look at the continuing USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times post-election poll was based on responses from Nov. 7 to 15 among 4,159 adult Americans, including 3,168 who reported that they voted in the midterm election.

Respondents were drawn from a probability-based panel maintained by USC’s Center for Economic and Social Research for its Understanding America Study. Responses were weighted to accurately reflect known demographics of the U.S. population and the overall vote for the two parties in the congressional election to date.

The margin of error is 2 percentage points in either direction. A full description of the methodology, poll questions and data and additional information about the poll are posted on the USC website.

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