'Rage against the machine': U.S. voters reject a 'rigged' system

November 9, 2016 12:59 PM EST

Supporters wait for U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


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(This November 9th story has been refiled to clarify that Keyes comment in 3rd paragraph from end was said in jest)

By Andy Sullivan and Michelle Conlin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a bitterly divisive presidential election, at least one thing united U.S. voters: a feeling that the country's economic and political systems were tilted against them.

A Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll of 45,000 voters found an electorate burning with resentment against Wall Street, politicians and the news media, increasingly alienated from a country that is changing in ways it doesn't like.

This sense of alienation transcended partisan boundaries, uniting supporters of Republican victor Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

"This is rage against the machine," said Carrie Sheridan, a former supporter of Democratic President Barack Obama, as fellow Trump supporters celebrated the real-estate mogul's victory early Wednesday by pouring champagne on each other at his $200 million luxury hotel near the White House.

Some 75 percent of poll respondents, Republicans and Democrats alike, agreed that the country needs a "strong leader" to take the country back from the rich and powerful.

Seven out of ten agreed that the economy is "rigged" to benefit wealthy insiders. Most backed the notion that their leaders were out of touch: 77 percent of Trump supporters and 56 percent of Clinton supporters agreed that traditional politicians didn't care about people like them.

(Graphic of Reuters/Ipsos poll: http://tmsnrt.rs/2ffJJ9A)

This sense of disconnection ran deepest among Trump supporters. Some 73 percent agreed with the idea that "more and more, I don't identify with what America has become," while 61 percent said they felt like strangers in their own country. Most Clinton supporters said they didn't share those sentiments.

Nine out of ten Trump supporters said mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth.

Trump, who travels in his own 757 jet, might seem like an unlikely candidate to benefit from this anti-elite sentiment.

But by 8 p.m. Eastern time, lines had formed at the velvet ropes by 8 p.m. Eastern time outside Trump's new hotel in between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, where a steak costs $60 and wine is sold by the spoonful.

"These are shadow voters, voters who have never voted before," said Preston Parry, 20, who was watching the results with a throng of friends, all of them wearing suits and Trump campaign trucker hats.

Despite his gilded lifestyle, Trump capitalized on working-class fears of a rapidly changing country. Styling himself as a "blue-collar billionaire," he promised to bring back manufacturing jobs back to forgotten factory towns and sharply curtail immigration.

He drew overwhelming support from white working-class voters in Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, winning enough states to capture the White House even as he lost the popular vote.

Trump's scathing characterization of Clinton as a corrupt career politician also resonated in an year when many voters said they were primarily casting a vote against one of the candidates.

VOTING AGAINST CANDIDATE

Some 46 percent of Trump supporters said they backed him because they didn't want Clinton to win, while 40 percent of Clinton supporters said they were motivated primarily to stop Trump from reaching the White House.

Those who made up their minds in the last week of the campaign were more likely to cite opposition to one of the candidates as their main reason for voting.

Politicians like Clinton are "taking away from what we were as a country and saying we should change because of the people coming in, the immigrants and refugees," said John Scherer, a 57-year-old former maintenance worker in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Scherer's sentiments were widely shared by Trump supporters, as 72 percent agreed with the idea that immigrants threaten traditional American beliefs and customs. Three-quarters of Clinton backers, by contrast, said immigrants strengthened U.S. society.

The Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states, including more than 45,000 people who already voted in the presidential election.

Voter dissatisfaction isn't exactly new. Surveys have consistently found since 2002 that most people believe the country is on the wrong track, a period that encompasses a Republican and Democratic president, two wars, a deep recession and a slow recovery.

Trump supporters were more likely to share this frustration. Some 70 percent who backed the Republican real-estate mogul said they felt the country was on the wrong track, while only 23 percent of Clinton supporters agreed, according to the Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.

Those figures could quickly turn on their head as the reality of a Trump presidency sinks in. Across the country, Clinton supporters used unusually harsh language when describing the election result.

In Washington, D.C., non-profit manager Trisha Postyuk said she saw her vote for Clinton as "a triumph over evil."

In St. Petersburg, Florida, cafe owner Amanda Keyes, 33, said racist and sexist attitudes are going to take many years to overcome.

"Misogyny will continue to bubble through the country but I can only hope that the old people will die," she said jokingly.

At Trump's hotel, a couple from Atlanta looked at a text message from a friend who had bet them $100 that Trump would lose.

"Please don't ever text me again," the message said.

(Additional reporting by Emily Flitter in Ohio, Ian Simpson in Washington and Letitia Stein in Florida; editing by Stuart Grudgings.)



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