When President Donald Trump is ready to let the world know that he is disappointed with the intelligence community, the United States judiciary, individual journalists, department stores or whatever else lands on his radar, he uses Twitter to blast his targets.
It was only a matter of time until his supporters adopted his style.
“I voted for you but you’re still acting like a baby,” one supporter from North Carolina wrote on Sunday, the same day Trump insulted the billionaire Mark Cuban by saying that he was ‘'not smart enough to run for president.'’
“When are you going to act Presidential???” wrote another supporter in Arizona that day. “Not every thought needs tweeting.”
“I voted for you but this is embarrassing,” someone else wrote last week, responding to the president’s tweet attacking the department store Nordstrom.
Complaints like these are being logged by a Twitter account called @Trump_Regrets. Since November, the account, managed by Erica Baguma, a 23-year-old Canadian college student, has climbed to more than 220,000 followers by curating some 1,500 messages, mostly from exasperated people who claimed to have voted for Trump.
It is easy to dismiss Trump Regrets for what, at first glance, looks like shaky sourcing: It has popped up at a time when several dubious-looking accounts exist just to serve up what a writer for Esquire magazine calls “liberal bait.” Some of the messages are sent from people hiding behind Pepe the Frog avatars, a mascot of alt-right trolls and a designated hate symbol, or faceless egg avatars. Eggs can be especially shifty with their allegiances.
Baguma, who started the account, said in an interview that she relies on the account’s followers to let her know when a reply is spam. Still, she said it is difficult to weed out all falsities.
With this in mind, The New York Times reached out to a dozen people whose messages were shared by the account, and checked their names against public records, including activity on other social media platforms. Interviews with several of them suggested that their disappointment is real, but that they also would not have voted for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
And, contrary to the name of the Trump Regrets account, not everyone who has lodged a complaint regrets voting for Trump.
“You kind of learn that you can’t really generalize a population,” Baguma said. “I learned that the population is a lot more diverse than I expected.”
“It’s not the substance. It’s the style.'’ — Jon A. Krosnick
Jon A. Krosnick, a professor at Stanford University who studies the psychology of voting, said that he was struck by how many of the Trump Regrets messages seemed to focus on Trump’s brash leadership style over his policies.
Krosnick said Trump’s rushed travel ban was a prime example.
“What’s fascinating about this is people are saying, ‘I elected you to be president and you’re not acting presidential,'” Krosnick said.
He added: “There is this personal component that is part of the pain: ‘You’re not just hurting the country, you’re hurting me.'”
Suzanna Ferebee, 53, who works as a private assistant in San Clemente, California, is among the Trump voters whose criticism was shared by the account. She generally agrees with Trump’s policies and voted for him because she wants things to improve for the middle class. But so far, she said in an interview, she’s embarrassed by the president’s behavior.
“I look at my Twitter feed every morning and say, ‘Oh, why did you do that?'” Ferebee said.
“We have a nincompoop in office.” — Debbie Nelson
Debbie Nelson, a secretary who lives in Orland Park, Illinois, and works in downtown Chicago, said in an interview that she never liked Trump, but ended up voting for him because she was worried jobs like hers were being outsourced. She also did not trust Clinton.
Nelson reluctantly voted for Trump — “because of Hillary’s lies” — but grew disillusioned with Trump’s behavior, which she thought would change after the election. On Feb. 6, she added her message for the president to the fray: “We need a mature adult as president. Can I take my vote back?” (For Nelson, the tipping point was seeing Trump dismiss news and negative polls as fake that day.)
Trump entered the White House with a historically low approval rating, but Nelson is among the voters who approve of his overall policies, especially when it comes to immigration. “I do want better security and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that,” she said.
But she was frustrated with the slapdash nature of Trump’s executive order to restrict refugees and people from several primarily Muslim countries. That travel ban has since been bogged down in court, most recently when a federal appeals panel refused to reinstate it last week.
“I understand his concept of rushing in,” Nelson, 59, said, “but when you are the president of the free world like he is, you have to do things procedurally. You just can’t go willy-nilly.”
“It just seemed like a big joke.” — Chad Watson
People who have had their messages shared from the Trump Regrets account have quickly been pulled into debates with people who reject Trump’s policies, and tend to get a deluge of criticism after their tweets are shared by the account.
When Chad Watson, a claims adjuster for a risk management firm who lives near Indianapolis, tweeted his regret for voting for Trump on Feb. 8, he said a woman told him she’d never forgive him for his vote.
Watson, who is gay and sits on the board of an Indianapolis organization for gay rights, said he had voted for Democratic presidential candidates, including President Barack Obama, in the past. But, as he put it to one critic on Twitter, “I would rather have gouged my eyes out and only drank well vodka then to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
In an interview, Watson, 40, said he was never wild about Trump — “I really thought he was going to fizzle out and drop out” — and now regrets his decision to vote for him “as the lesser of two evils” after watching some of the decisions he’s made early in his presidency. Watson said he recently called the office of Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., to urge him not to vote for Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor, to lead the Education Department.
Watson has not heard back yet. DeVos is now education secretary.
“It’s just a bunch of political stuff to get their friends into office,” Watson said of that appointment.
“Trump is always a step ahead of the media.'’ — John Tyler
Not everyone would characterize their feelings as regretful. John Tyler, the supporter in North Carolina who told Trump he was acting like a “baby” on Twitter, said in an email that he still supported the president.
“Your paper and other media can’t stand Trump,” wrote Tyler, a retired real estate agent who now sings Elvis songs and gospel music on YouTube. “I voted for him for one reason: His ego is so large that he cannot fail to implement his agendas promised.”