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President Trump remains extremely unpopular in Massachusetts, according to a Gallup poll released this week.
Only 29 percent of those surveyed in the Bay State since inauguration approve of Trump's job performance. That's the second-lowest rating in the country, behind Vermont, which gave the president a 26 percent approval rating.
Since the election we've been speaking with some of the one million Massachusetts residents who voted for Trump, focusing on a group of central Massachusetts towns that stretch from the New Hampshire border south to the Connecticut line.
Despite Trump's low statewide approval rating, we've found evidence of continued support for the president among these voters — but there's also some dissatisfaction.
'He's Doing More Than Anyone Else Has'
Last winter we met Jesse Algarin, a military veteran and the co-owner of the Hometown Cafe in the town of Winchendon. Algarin told us proudly that since he opened the cafe three years earlier he'd dished out more than 3,200 pounds of brisket. He said he voted for Trump because he represented a break from the past — a non-politician who might finally help working guys like him.
"I truly do believe he will," Algarin said back in March. "Everybody who has gone into office is a politician. My theory is, we haven't had a president since Reagan — and he wasn't a politician, he wasn't a lawyer. And since I've been around, he's about the best ones we've ever had."
So after months of investigations about possible Russian collusion, court challenges, legislative paralysis and all those angry tweet storms, we went back to the Hometown Cafe to find out what Trump supporters like Algarin are thinking now.
Algarin says he's still selling lots of brisket — and points to a hand-written number on the wall: 3,762 pounds.
With regard to the president, Algarin says Trump is doing what he promised: putting America first, taking a tough line on illegal immigration, and telling America's allies to pay more for their own defense.
"He's doing more than anyone else has. There's some people trying to stop him or slow him down, but he's trying."Jesse Algarin, who voted for Trump
"He's been doing what he said he's going to do. He's pretty much following through — so he's not saying he's going to do something and just not do it," Algarin said. "He's doing more than anyone else has. There's some people trying to stop him or slow him down, but he's trying."
Algarin views the Russia investigation as the biggest example of people trying to slow Trump down. And he says there's no proof that the president has done anything wrong.
"I haven't seen any proof. I haven't heard of any proof," he said. "No one seems to have the actual proof — you got nothing. If you got something, then bring it to light. If not, then let it go."
'It's Deeply Troubling'
Algarin, a self-described Republican, is part of the Trump base that seems to be holding. According to that Gallup poll, 87 percent of Republicans — like Algarin — approve of the job Trump is doing. But there is evidence of some cracks in that support.
"There are a lot of people who voted for Trump who are disappointed," says Diane Hessan, chair of the marketing company C Space. Hessan has been communicating with 200 Trump voters and 200 Clinton voters since last December. She says there is a core of Trump supporters attracted to his irreverent, disruptive style who are still very much with him. But Hessan has identified a less ideological group of supporters who've become frustrated.
"They are kind of sick of the lack of discipline, the tweeting, and some of the decisions that he's making," she says.
Nicholas Vantangoli is a high school history teacher in Ware, another central Massachusetts town we visited last March. Back then, Vantangoli was hopeful that Trump could help bring back jobs to this part of the state. He liked Trump's stance on immigration and believed that he'd keep America safe. But now Vantangoli is worried — particularly about Trump's response to the Russia investigation.
"It's deeply troubling to see an American president so secretive."Nicholas Vantangoli, who voted for Trump
"It's deeply troubling to see an American president so secretive," Vantangoli said. "It's very Nixonian in a way. So that, of course, given my profession as a history teacher, that to me is concerning, because you've seen this before. You've seen this play out."
Whereas many Trump's supporters — like Algarin — buy the president's claim that the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt," Vantangoli wants to know how far the Russian election meddling went — and if the Trump campaign knew about it.
"I think this is a matter of national security, and we need to figure it out," Vantangoli said. "What's going on? Because given our past relations between the countries, we have to be a little suspicious."
Vantangoli is concerned that all this is now blocking the possibility of real reform on other issues — from health care to taxes. He says he's still rooting for Trump to succeed, but is a lot less optimistic that he will.
This segment aired on July 26, 2017.
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