BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) President Donald Trump is a polarizing commander in chief. He elicits strong reactions from both sides of the aisle. But what about the Vermonters who elected him? Investigative Reporter Jennifer Costa found supporters who feel "Trumped."
About one out of every three Vermont voters picked Donald Trump. Though, just living in this state, support doesn't seem that high. So WCAX News posed a question on Facebook: Are you a Trump supporter who feels silenced in Vermont? The response blew us away; we got 1,000 comments in the first 24 hours. The question now: can this controversial president bring the country together?
"I have a hat. I don't wear it in public. I don't flaunt the way that I voted," Chad Duprey said.
Duprey voted for Donald Trump. He's not a Republican. He even supported Barack Obama. But this presidential election, Duprey was looking for a change. He found it in Donald Trump.
So did Nicole Citro.
"Trump has never necessarily been my guy, but the thing is... it was an alternative to what was being offered," Citro said.
Both say their votes made them targets in a state where inclusiveness is usually a hallmark.
"I was treated like I was a bad person for that, like I was the epitome of evil," Duprey said. "It feels awful."
Even in a predominantly blue state that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, more than 178,000 people, there is still strong support for Donald Trump. Some 95,369 Vermonters voted for him.
Yet since the president took office, many of his supporters tell us they feel more silenced than ever.
"Believe the things you want to believe. Live your life the way you want. It's your right to do that. This is America. That's what this country was built on. And it's OK for them to do that. But when I did that, it was wrong," Duprey said.
"They don't feel like they get the respect that they should be getting," said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor.
We asked political expert Dickinson to weigh in on why Trump supporters feel ostracized.
"Finally they had a voice. But it is a voice that is increasingly drowned out by negative perceptions of what Trump supporters are like. They're racist. They're xenophobic. They're misogynistic. All these qualities they don't see in themselves and that's just sort of a further reminder that they've been marginalized in society," Dickinson said.
"I figured if someone can put a Bernie sticker on their car to support him, why can't I put a Trump sticker on my car?" Duprey said.
Duprey had one but someone ripped it off. He says he's been called a lot of ugly names and even threatened, all because he supports the president of the United States.
He's willing to overlook most of the president's bad behavior because he believes in Trump's promise to make America great again. The former Navy man believes the president should be judged on his ability to secure our borders, strengthen our military and pass policies to make us safer, not solely based on his negative qualities.
"People, for better or worse, who support him tend to get tarred and feathered with attitudes and emotions evoked by the candidate, now the president himself," Dickinson said.
"How many times have I been called an idiot? Well, clearly I'm not an idiot," Citro said.
Citro doesn't defend Trump, just her choice to vote for him. And she would do it again.
"People will project on you what they think it is that you believe because of the fact that that's your political ideology as opposed to what I necessarily believe," Citro said.
She doesn't approve of his antics and even wishes he was more of a statesman. But Citro says until the next election, we have a "brash billionaire with a Twitter account and no apologies" in charge of overhauling the tax code and making health care more affordable. She just hopes he can stay focused.
"There are things that he promised that he is making good on but I think that he gets his attention diverted," she said. "You know, he's always taking the bait."
Citro says Donald Trump is held up as the reason for and the solution as to why this country is so divided.
"No one's listening to anyone anymore," Citro said.
Trump evokes such strong reactions from both sides.
Dickinson said, "How much of this is Trump-based and how much of a reflection just the increasing polarization of political discourse more generally? That's why I worry about the Millennials. If they are the wave of the future, if they are going to move up through the ranks and so they become the next Jennifer Costas and, you know, running colleges and so on, are we going to see the country becoming increasingly intolerant?"